Police contract sets the tone, 2012 budget hole gets deeper

The Toronto Star’s Robyn Doolittle:

Mayor Rob Ford’s “rookie mistake” of awarding the police association a 3.19 per cent salary hike could end up costing the city more than $50 million annually, his critics charge.

“This is going to drive every single essential service contract in the city. The city has said it can afford to pay 3 per cent a year. Not only are the firefighters going to get it, but who else is going to now that they’re an essential service? The TTC,” said left-wing councillor Adam Vaughan.

“This will have a ripple through the largest employee groups in the city.”

via Ford’s costly police deal a ‘rookie mistake,’ critics say – thestar.com.

In 2008, an arbitrated settlement between the Police Services Board and the Union saw a new contract with awarded pay raises of just about 10% over three years. 2005 was similar, with a three-year raise of 9.85%. This contract, which didn’t go to arbitration, comes in at about 11%.

Lots has been said about this already — notably by the Posted Toronto Political Panel — but I think it’s important to point out how this deal will highlight the folly that was essential service legislation for the TTC. We have now told transit workers — operators, ticket takers, all of them — that we can’t live a single day without them. As a result, they’re worth more now. Probably a lot more.

That sound you hear is the 2012 budget hole getting deeper.

Is the agreement with the police union necessarily a bad deal? It’s hard to say. An appointed arbitrator may well have awarded the same contract, or an even better contract. With some of the lowest residential property taxes in the GTA, an impartial observer is unlikely to accept that the city can’t come up with the money.

But, coming on the heels of the TTC essential service designation, it definitely makes for a bad situation.

It also will screw with other police boards as they negotiate with their unions. The Ottawa Citizen’s Randall Denley writes about the ripple effect the Toronto deal will have not only in his city, but also provincially when the OPP contract comes due:

The Toronto deal will cost Ottawans more at the provincial level, too, because it will drive up the OPP contract cost. The provincial police have an unusual deal that gives them a raise of 5.075 per cent in the first year, followed by a two-year wage freeze. That doesn’t sound too bad, but there is a special clause for the fourth year that ensures that the OPP will be the province’s highestpaid police service at the end of the contract. The Toronto agreement will add roughly six per cent to the OPP deal.

In Ottawa, every one-percent increase in police wages adds $2 million in costs, so a deal like the one signed in Toronto would cost taxpayers more than $22 million a year by the end of a similar contract.

via Toronto police increase costs us | Ottawa Citizen.

Conservative politicians often talk about how they will get tough with unions, but that rarely materializes. It is far easier to quietly concede, avoiding the damaging political impacts that result from protracted labour disputes. The added cost of the new labour contracts will be partially recouped through service cuts later this year.

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