Breaking News: Vancouver city council considering pay freeze as part of budget cutbacks

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

6 comments

cknw_logoVancouver radio station CKNW is reporting late this afternoon that Vancouver City Councillor Raymond Louie is asking City staff to consider implementing a pay freeze for public sector workers as part of budget restraint measures. They are also reporting that management will be looking at early retirement incentives in order to help trim overall labour costs.

City taxpayers were facing a massive hike of almost 8.29% this year alone if Council didn't consider pay freezes or other cutbacks to the budget. Mayor Robertson committed during the recent election to raise property taxes by no more than the rate of inflation, which currently sits around 3%.

It is unclear whether the "hiring freeze" referred to in Louie's motion will apply to the Vancouver Police Department (VPD).

No word yet on the reaction from the Canadian Union of Public Employees or the Vancouver Police Union regarding how Vision Vancouver's proposal might impact their collective agreements. The CUPE agreement provided for 17.5% increase in wages over the life of the contract which expires in 2011.

Below is a copy of the news release issued by the Office of the Mayor and the motion introduced by Councillor Louie.

OFFICE OF THE MAYOR News Release
City of Vancouver

February 3, 2009

Mayor and Council consider further spending cuts to reduce taxes

VANCOUVER - Council directed the City Manager today to immediately take
all necessary steps to reduce tax increases in the 2009 operating
budget, including the consideration of both hiring and pay freezes.

"We're facing challenging economic times, and City Hall needs to
adjust," said Mayor Gregor Robertson. "The direction that Council has
given to the City Manager today will make sure that we are expanding our
search for savings in our City budget."

Councillor Raymond Louie, Chair of the City's Services and Budgets
Committee, today introduced a motion directing the City Manager to take
all necessary steps to produce a budget that will "protect taxpayers and
mitigate any compromise of key City services."

The motion also directs the City Manager to consider the following steps
when limiting property tax increases, some of which include:

* hiring freezes;
* pay freezes;
* limiting external consultant engagements; and
* early retirement.

"When our new Council was sworn in, we were staring at a potential 13%
property tax increase for homeowners," said Councillor Louie. "Since
that time, we've cut $26 million from the budget - but it's not enough.
That's why today we're taking extra steps to cut spending at City Hall
so that we can reign in property tax increases."

Media contact:

Kevin Quinlan
Executive Assistant
Office of the Mayor
778.995.2264

Motion introduced by Councillor Louie:

WHEREAS current economic conditions require extraordinary due diligence on the part of the City to ensure that the costs to taxpayers is mitigated to the greatest extent possible;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct the City Manager to immediately take all necessary steps to produce a 2009 Operating Budget that will protect taxpayers and mitigate any compromise on key city services;

AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City Manager be asked to consider steps which may possibly include:

  • Review of all "projects" underway
  • Expedited implementation of shared services across all City departments, outside boards (Park and Recreation, Vancouver Public Library, Vancouver Police, Vancouver Civic Theatres) and owned/controlled entities (Parking Corporation of Vancouver, Pacific National Exhibition)
  • Hiring freezes
  • Pay freezes
  • Triage and limiting of all external consultant engagements
  • Early retirement
  • review and adjust City business activities to align with the City's core mandate under the Vancouver Charter

AND THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City Manager continue these efforts as necessary to limit future property tax increases in 2010 and 2011.

6 Comments

If Raymond keeps this up I may start to like him!

No word yet on the reaction from the Canadian Union of Public Employees or the Vancouver Police Union regarding how Vision Vancouver's proposal might impact their collective agreements.

It won't.

The council supported an emergency motion introduced late Tuesday to give the city manager broad powers to freeze hiring and pay for non-union staff, review all current major projects, limit consultants and do anything else that might be needed.

Nice try at agitprop, though.

Spartikus,

Have you actually read the motion? Where does it say hiring freezes only for "non-unionized" staff? If that is the case, we stand to be corrected. However, the motion doesn't seem to limit the City Manager to only dealing with non-unionized staff.

Here's where it gets sticky. A hiring freeze in a unionized environment will likely trigger 1 or both of 2 things... (1) Working to rule by remaining staff or (2) overtime which would largely eat away at any savings made and become hugely unproductive. So, I think its safe to assume the pay freese etc. will apply to management. Additionally, you must consider the vacation quotas some of the people eligible for early retirment are carrying. If they retire, the City must pay out the quota's - so where's the savings there? I think, once again, VV is acting rashly for the sake of scoring political points. I suspect there was very little consultation done prior to releasing this, and therefore should have been a bit more thought through (the devil is in the details). I think what you might wish to consider is that VV is trying to position themselves as "tough" and part of the "Tony Blair" version of the left. The trick being there just not quite that sophisticated. I also think they are trying to keep pace with the Premier for some reason, hmmm maybe as there's an election looming?
I am all for lean government, no question. However, this approach is not just cutting through the "fat" but instead making some pretty heavy duty cuts into some of the organization's muscle.

Have you actually read the motion? Where does it say hiring freezes only for "non-unionized" staff?

So you are questioning the accuracy of Bula's G&M article?

The question is where did Bula get that detail for her story? If you read the media release and the motion, there is absolutely no distinction made as to whether this is union or non-union staff. Frances may have "assumed" this in her reporting, or left out where she learned this detail (she apparently attended the meeting, so it might have been stated there).

We'd just like to know exactly what Louie's motion means.

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