Soaring municipal pay criticized in provincial review

Divided cities need unified defence against unions, report advises government

Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman.

A review of municipal pay levels ordered by the province recommends the government act to help rein in rapidly escalating wages among unionized civic workers and some administrators.

The report by consultants Ernst & Young, released by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, was conducted as part of the province’s core review launched last year.

It found unionized municipal workers received pay hikes totaling 38 per cent from 2001 to 2012 – twice as much as the 19 per cent in raises for unionized provincial government staff. Inflation over the same period was 23 per cent.

The report also notes several larger B.C. cities pay their chief administrators close to the $230,000 in pay and bonuses earned in 2011 by the average provincial government deputy minister, while that’s exceeded by city managers in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Abbotsford and Maple Ridge, as well as Metro Vancouver’s chief administrator.

The review didn’t consider whether city managers deserve the same pay as provincial deputy ministers, but said that should be investigated.

Provincial compensation restraint policies that began in 2008 with that year’s recession should be reviewed and updated to potentially serve as a broader philosophy extending across the public sector to municipalities, the review recommended.

“The government should do what is necessary to bring municipal government compensation into alignment over time, including financial levers if necessary.”

Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman said he hopes city councils reform themselves and the province doesn’t need to take “extreme measures” like tying provincial grants to wage restraint.

“I would see that as a last resort,” he said.

The report suggested the province may find it harder to retain its own managers if cities pay more and Bateman said that makes the issue a legitimate concern for government.

“If municipal wages are going up fast and they’re grossly overpaying staff, it gets hard for the province to keep their employees in place,” he said.

Unlike limits on management pay imposed across the provincial government, local government compensation isn’t coordinated or regulated, the report said, and there’s no limit on what cities can decide to pay.

Collective bargaining by cities is generally “highly fragmented and inefficient,” the report observed, allowing unions to exploit their divisions.

“Unions can focus efforts on municipalities where outcomes are more likely to be favourable and use the resulting agreements to ratchet up increases in other municipalities.”

Metro Vancouver’s largest cities pulled out of the regional district’s joint bargaining arrangement in 2012 in favour of more local flexibility in negotiations.

“Without a coordinated response to organized labour, there is a real risk that unions can divide and conquer,” the report said.

The leak of the report to the CTF comes as municipal leaders prepare to gather in Whistler next week for the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, where the province usually faces a barrage of funding requests.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong said in a statement the province has reached out to the cities via UBCM to explore practical tools and models that can help the entire public service deliver similar services at similar costs.

“We know many local governments are looking carefully at revenues and ideas for new revenue streams,” de Jong said. “They need to be looking equally closely at their expenditures.”

Just Posted

This photo of the small wildfire burning above Naramata was taken at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021 (Monique Tamminga Western News)
BC Wildfire on scene of small wildfire above Naramata

Black smoke can be seen rising from the mountain

Keremeos’ heritage Grist Mill and Gardens. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)
Keremeos Grist Mill looking forward to restrictions easing with exclusive concert planned

Juno Award-winning folk artist Valdy is set to take the stage

Letter writer says COVID has created lots of newbie cyclists who don't know rules of cycling. (File photo)
LETTER: Newbie cyclists in Penticton need lessons on rules of the road

Penticton cycling group just received city funding, should give back by offering how-to lessons

No dental coverage for low income Canadians. (File photo)
OPINION: Penticton MP’s proposal for universal dental coverage rejected

One in 3 Canadians have no dental coverage, with COVID making it even worse

The weekly COVID-19 map for June 6 to 12. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees only 5 new cases in last week

The Similkameen Valley went a second week without any new cases

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

Students in the Grade 10 entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School have completed a cookbook with international recipes. (Contributed)
Summerland students create virtual international cookbook

Entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School uses virtual cookbook as fundraiser

Hundreds of people, young and old, joined the three-day Walking Our Spirits Home procession, honouring residential school survivors, those who never made it home and all those affected by the institutions. Here people walk the third portion on June 13. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Walking Our Spirits Home from Kamloops provides path to healing

First Nations in and beyond Secwépemc territory join in to honour residential school survivors

More flames
Lake Country home destroyed in large blaze, 11 dogs rescued

Fire crews are responding to 10839 Hallam Drive

(Facebook/Kelowna Cabs)
Kelowna Cabs reaches tentative agreement with dispatchers union

The tentative agreement could help end the dispute between the taxi company and the dispatchers

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

A boat sharing service is extending to Summerland. The company, Penticton Boat Club and Rentals, is also taking over the boat rentals at Summerland Waterfront Resort. (Photo by Chris Stenberg)
Boat sharing service extended from Penticton to Summerland

Company will also operate boat rentals at Summerland Waterfront Resort

201 First Street West 1980s. Prior revitalization. (Photo from Revelstoke Museum and Archives)
Man who redesigned downtown Revelstoke honoured with lifetime achievement award

Robert Inwood has worked on historical projects across the province

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

Most Read