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Headline Firemen Reject

Text Firemen Reject Health Check-UP

This newspaper article from April 26th, 1960, reports on the controversial topic of City-sponsored annual medical exams for the firemen. While the City Council agreed that the firemen should be urged to get annual medical exams, the International Firefighters Association Local 496 disagreed, stating that the risks of the job are understood and the men could obtain the exams privately.

The article reads as follows:

"Firemen Reject Health Check-Up

Jury Proposal Council Issue

Port Arthur city council strongly endorses a coroner’s jury recommendation that local firemen be compelled to undergo periodic medical examinations. Council believes the firemen should have these check-ups for their own good and for the public’s sake.

Local 496, Port Arthur Firefighters Association, turned down the jury’s recommendation, however.

The jury had made the recommendation at an inquest into the death of Walter Tilson, the Port Arthur fire department lieutenant who suffered a heart attack while fighting a fire.

The city labour relations committee, through its chairman, Alderman R.V. Wilmot, reported to city council Monday night that Local 496 does not concur with a compulsory employer-sponsored medical examination.

The firemen stress their agreement calls for a medical examination for promotional purposes, and that this agreement has their approval.

The firemen state that 'as private individuals and as a body, we are fully cognizant of the problems to our health caused by firefighting, and we do stress private medical examinations in order that we can be forewarned of any condition affecting our health.'

The labor relations committee, when submitting its report, was of the opinion there is no further action the committee can take at the present time.

Back to Union

Council on Monday night did not concur and after discussion it was decided to refer the issue back to the committee and to the firemen’s union.

Objection to the committee’s report was first raised by Alderman Jack Stitt, who said a coroner’s jury was comprised of men who should be able to come out with some valuable recommendations.

This particular recommendation, he said, 'should not be waved away.'

Alderman Stitt said he had been reading reports submitted by grand juries during the past 15 years, and these reports, he said, often contained the same recommendations year after year. If nothing was done about the recommendations, it would indicate grand juries were a waste of time and should be cut out, the alderman declared.

The local firemen, he added, have the responsibility of safe guarding a population of 43,000 persons and property valued in the millions. The firemen should be examined periodically and there should be certain standards of precautions the city could take, he said, adding that the lives of one or more people could be endangered under certain circumstances of extreme excitement.

Strong Point

Alderman Stitt pointed out that while a fireman takes an initial examination, and then undergoes a further checkup, more meetings should be held with the firemen’s union concerning these periodical check-ups. It could be a strong bargaining point for next year, and new employees of the fire department should be compelled to have these examinations, he suggested.

The whole issue should not be discarded 'as lightly as the report indicates,' he concluded.

Alderman Wilmot said the committee had gone into all the various points thoroughly, and that the committee felt the firemen should be examined once a year. They had done all they could to get the union to come along with this recommendation, he said, adding the firemen insist their agreement does not cover such periodic examinations.

State Case

Mayor Norman Wilson said at this point that while the committee could not do anything, council could reflect public opinion.

The matter goes farther than one side of the coin, the mayor declared, saying the interests of the taxpayers had to be considered.

The city, he said, carries its own compensation fund, and a fireman in an impaired physical condition not only endangers his fellow firemen and the occupants of a building, but the citizens must pay compensation to the fireman’s family.

A medical examination would bring out a latent condition and a fireman could not then be subjected to this exertion, Mayor Wilson declared. The firemen have an obligation to take these periodic examinations, he said adding: 'It’s the people that pay that we have to consider. They’re paying for first class protection.'

Alderman Wilmot suggested the matter be referred back to the committee and the union. This was concurred in, the mayor urging the committee to point out to the firemen 'their obligations to the city' as regards 'the safety of the firemen and of the people.'"

City of Thunder Bay Archives Series Number: 29
TBA: 2255-05