Councillors disagree on police wage increases

By Jessie Weisner
April 15, 2019 - 9:01pm Updated: April 16, 2019 - 6:55pm

 

MEDICINE HAT, AB -- Medicine Hat City Council has approved new collective agreements with the Medicine Hat Police Association, and the Medicine Hat Police Senior Officers Association.

The city has been negotiating for more than a year, but finally came to the new agreements. They’re for a four-year term from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2020.

The wage increases caused the most contention of the agreements.

“The hardest part of any collective bargaining process is the monetary part,” says Councillor Julie Friesen, a member of the Police Commission. “In this particular case there was not agreement around certain parts of that.”

Wage increases include 0% effective January 1, 2017, 2% effective January 1, 2018, 2.5% effective December 31, 2018, 2% effective December 31, 2019, and 1.5% effective July 1, 2020.

Councillor Kris Samraj and Councillor Phil Turnbull did not agree with the wage increases, voting against the item in Monday’s council meeting.

Samraj compared wages of the Medicine Hat Police to those in Calgary or even Vancouver, saying they’re too close, especially since Medicine Hat’s cost of living is roughly 25% lower.

Turnbull said the average salary for Medicine hat residents is substantially lower than other municipalities, so the wage increases don’t even out.

“I don’t know anyone in the private sector that’s getting anywhere near those increases,” said Councillor Turnbull. “I will also not being supporting the contract, but I support the police service.”

However, if the motion didn’t pass in Council on Monday, discussion would have gone to binding arbitration.

A panel would then take into account all the discussion, research, comparisons and make a final ruling. It also costs $100,000.

Friesen said it wasn’t worth going to binding arbitration.

“It was pretty obvious that the arbitrator would rule pretty much if not more the settlement we voted on tonight,” says Friesen. “So it would have been a process that costed us more money, and it would have been very damaging because we’ve been down this path before years ago, it’s very damaging on a relationship.”

Friesen says the police are essential to the community, and Medicine Hat’s police service go above and beyond.

“Our police are just a stellar group of people and I don’t think we realize until we need them how important they are,” says Friesen. “I do know that the safety of a community is paramount for most people.”

Mayor Ted Clugston agrees.

“We do have a fantastic police force, I think everybody knows, whether we complain about our photo radar tickets or not we do know this is a well policed community with proactive policing.”

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