City staff have been ordered to examine management and non-union staff wages with an eye to cutting them.
Coun. Wendy Kerr made the notice of motion at council’s March 10 meeting.
The matter was referred back to city council for deliberation in an in-camera meeting. Wages and labour issues are typically discussed in-camera.
“City staff wages was among the most common concerns outlined in the surveys we got back from the public,” Kerr said.
According to city manager Ken Watson there are 19 exempt employees on staff who make between $68,000 and $156,000 per year. Each of the 19 has an individual contract with the city.
“It’s at the top and that’s where the big money is at,” Kerr said. “I think when times were good then city staff got taken care of. But things aren’t the same, the economy’s not the same.”
Kerr wouldn’t speculate how much of a cut she was looking at. “But this conversation has to start somewhere and someone has to start it.”
City council recently voted to give itself a raise, but the optics of reducing some council wages must be taken in context. Council’s raise was below the average of other municipalities, Kerr said.
“And CUPE just got a one per cent increase in January. Well, one per cent of a $40,000 wage is a lot different than one per cent of a $100,000 wage.”
Kerr works at West Coast General Hospital and is a member of a union. But she says she doesn’t feel like a hypocrite asking that negotiated contracts be opened up and wages examined for reduction.
“I’m a member of a union that took a 15 per cent wage cut. Myself and a lot of women in the union didn’t like it but we had to manage after and we did,” she said.
The issue is a tough one to tackle but it has to be broached, Kerr said. “There’s been a lot of pussyfooting around but people have talked about this and someone had to make a move.”
Contracts would have to be re-negotiated.