Comment 72993

By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted January 12, 2012 at 10:21:54 in reply to Comment 72310

I have to take umbrage at your statement that police or firefighters don't require post secondary education and that its somehow specious to lump teachers in with them. Try getting hired by a police or fire department today with a grade 12 diploma. See what happens.

I've been a professional firefighter for the City of Toronto for 22 years. To get hired on that job when I applied 23 years ago my post secondary education of degrees in Military History and Religion went a long way. Today the trend is toward hiring candidates with techincal degrees or diplomas in fire science and firefighting from universities and colleges. The techincal, practical, and theoretical knowledge required to complete these programs and indeed work as a firefighter today is vast and complex.

It is incredibly competitive and kids that spend two or three years in these programs spending tens of thousands of dollars are not guaranteed a job when they graduate. They must compete for a job with thousands of other applicants from across the country usually. I'm not sure many other professions in the private sector can say that.

Once hired, the training and education does not stop. Advances in building technologies, automotive technologies, medical technologies require firefighters to be constantly training, upgrading our skill set, passing certification requirements on a yearly basis. The myth that we sit around drinking coffee, eating and watching tv is just that .... a myth. Do those things happen? Yep. We essentially "live" in our workplace. Again other than maybe ER doctors and nurses I'm not sure many other people can say that.

It is incredibly frustrating as a person who has spent most of my adult life protecting the people and property of a community from harm and intervening sometimes at great risk to my person to do so, to read and listen to the attacks on what I do and how I'm compensated by people who are largely ignorant of how skilled firefighters are and need to be, what they do on a daily basis, and how fire departments work in general.

A straw poll in any firehall in any large city in Canada will find that firefighters have backgrounds in trades, education, the military, medicine etc. Unlike most occupations firefighters in general (but not always) are drawn to the job out of a desire to serve. In other words it's not just a job.

These attacks usually come from people in the private sector who are applying a business model to a public service that has no basis in business what so ever. The Sue Ann Levy's of the world just don't get that firefighters, police officers, paramedics et al... ARE NOT PRODUCTION workers. We don't make anything. We don't get paid to make anything. We are not there to add to the revenue stream of a municipality's bottom line. (True police do contribute through issuing citations, but that is not their prime reason for being.)

At the root of it. I get paid to show up and if necessary implement the training and skills that I have. A good day for the community is when my truck doesn't roll out of the hall. ( Which in citities like Hamilton and Toronto almost never happens).

To lump firefighters and police in with say janitorial staff, parks and recreation, sanitation workers, etc to me is specious. I would never minimize or make light of the work of those other jobs or the people that do them but to compare them and and generalize us as all public sector workers, with low skill sets, and holding jobs for life that could be privatized is a joke.

Try privatizing a police or fire service and paying the people that do that work "a living wage" and see what happens. It's actually been tried in several U.S. communities by a company called Rural Metro who basically sold these cities a "monorail". It's been an abject failure and most of those communities ended up rehiring their professional public saftey workers.

I am also a taxpayer and a business owner, so I have absolutely no problem with cities getting their finances in order. But to simply point fingers at public sector workers as the root cause of fiscal challenges is the cowards way out and disingenuous to the people that keep cities running.

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2012-01-12 10:31:07

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