Friday April 15, 2011
So Others May Live
NDP want "Hero's Benefit" payment of $300k to families of fallen fire fighters
Released by the IAFF
anada's professional fire fighters welcome news that the New Democratic Party would establish a national benefit for the families of fallen fire fighters and other public safety officers if elected. Fire fighters say the benefit is long overdue and would help ensure surviving family members don't face financial hardship at the same time they are dealing with their grief.
In its election platform released April 10, the NDP indicates it would establish a 'Hero's Benefit' in the form of a $300,000 payment to the family of a fire fighter who is killed or permanently disabled in the course of their duties. The announcement responds to a longstanding issue put forward by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), which represents more than 21,000 professional fire fighters across Canada. The IAFF has been lobbying for the establishment of a national Public Safety Officer Compensation (PSOC) benefit in Canada for almost 20 years.
"We are grateful that the NDP is bringing attention to this issue and recognizing the need for a national benefit for the families of fallen fire fighters," said Scott Marks, the IAFF's Assistant to the General President for Canadian Operations.
"A fire fighter's death in service to their community is a sacrifice to the entire nation, so it's only appropriate for the government to establish an equitable national benefit that ensures a minimum level of financial security for surviving family members," he said.
Marks notes that professional fire fighters, who are first on scene in virtually any kind of emergency in cities and towns across Canada, are the nation's first line of defence and a part of its critical infrastructure. Among full-time professional fire fighters, who protect 85 per cent of the nation's population and infrastructure, only a handful have been able to negotiate line-of-duty death benefits at the local level, and those benefits commonly provide only two years' continuation of salary and benefits, which is typically enough to keep survivors in the family home for two years.
"The dignity and financial security of the family of a fire fighter who has made the ultimate sacrifice should not depend on the uncertainties of the collective bargaining process or on the city or province in which they lived and worked," Marks says. "A national benefit is required in order to ensure an equitable level of compensation and financial security. This benefit is long overdue, and we are pleased to see Jack Layton and the New Democratic Party make this formal commitment," Marks said.
The NDP proposes funding the benefit, which would also be available to other public safety workers such as police officers, in the amount of $15 million in each of the next four fiscal years. On average, 18 professional fire fighters die in the line of duty annually, including those who die from recognized occupational diseases such as cancer. Seven police officers die in the line of duty annually, on average. The IAFF, which is non-partisan, has also received support for the PSOC benefit from the Liberal Party of Canada and the Green Party of Canada. The IAFF is also calling on the Conservative Party of Canada to recognize the sacrifices of fallen fire fighters and to commit to establishing the benefit if elected.
The IAFF has been raising other issues at the federal level, including the need for a national office for fire service statistics, priority vaccinations for fire fighters in the event of an influenza pandemic and the need for amendments to the National Building Code to protect fire fighters. More information about IAFF issues is available online at www.iaff.org/canada/FactSheets/index.htm
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