New Westminster city workers to get 6.75 wage increase
New Westminster civic employees will be getting a wage boost of 6.75 per cent over the next four years following the ratification of a new contract by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and city council.
The deal, which dates back to Jan. 1 of this year, provides for a wage increase of 1.25 per cent this year, another 1.75 per cent for each of the next two years and two per cent in 2015.
CUPE 387 ratified the agreement with 97 per cent supporting the contract, which was also approved by city council and the police board.
The city is the first in Metro Vancouver to reach a settlement. Five years ago, the Greater Vancouver Regional District was supposed to be in charge of negotiations across the region but some municipalities did their own. Richmond was the first to settle, which called for a 17.5 per cent hike over five years which forced the other municipalities to follow suit, said Coun. Bill Harper. He went on to say with the GVRD, now Metro Vancouver, no longer negotiating municipal worker contracts, it will be interesting to see how the other municipalities and their union locals react in their negotiations.
“We think that’s a really good settlement in order for the city to plan its budgets and not being hit by operating expenses,” said Harper. “We have no idea if inflation is going to be two per cent or five per cent in four years from now.
Said CUPE 387 business agent George Habib:
“It’s a reasonable and fair deal [given] the economic chaos we live in globally and locally.
“Definitely the last one (in 2007), as you can appreciate, everyone was more than willing to settle for a little bit more money and avoid any work stoppage during the Olympics in 2010. We’re talking about two completely different times, and the union is in tune with the economic times.”
Both Harper and Habib said it’s not right to compare the municipal settlement with the provincial government’s zero-increase mandate for its public employees.
“They’re not really reflective of one another, although people might want them to be,” said Harper. “Municipal contracts have never reflected the increases or not of the provincial government.”
He noted in the mid-1990s provincial workers got greater increases than municipal employees.
“The whole issue of wage increases over a long period of time, you actually find, that municipal wages are basically lagging from provincial wages and benefits.”
Habib said his union’s negotiations are completely different from the provincial ones.
“The province may have some budget issues they are trying to deal with, and in those cases the unions go about strengthening the language and security becomes very important,” Habib said.
Both are curious how the rest of the area’s municipalities will react to the New West deal since they’re the first to settle.
“Certainly in the past we waited until Vancouver and Surrey and some of the larger municipalities settled before we settled,” said Habib. “The climate itself (is different). We enjoy one of the better labour relationships (with the city), so why wait?
“There is no incentive at all in waiting. There were also some very, very strong suggestions and rumours that the larger unions like Vancouver that were told there was no money in the budget, and they were not going to get anything. So if we were to wait for Vancouver and they end up with a zero, then what?”
Habib said CUPE 387 has a total of 625 members, of which 262 are full time. The rest are part time or auxiliary employees.