Port Moody's sweetheart labour deal with CUPE is a bitter pill for taxpayers
For many of us that live in Metro Vancouver, the labour dispute that hit both Vancouver and North Vancouver in 2007 is only a memory, albeit a bitter one for many involved. The municipalities in Metro Vancouver were bargaining hard to keep wage settlements down (good foresight given what happened to our economy in following years), but in the end Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie broke ranks and signed a sweetheart deal with CUPE.
The collective agreement provided unions with over 17.5% in pay raises over five years, and a bunch of new benefits. Once Richmond folded, Vancouver and North Vancouver were essentially stuck with no option but to match Richmond's deal. These cities were "whipsawed" into submission.
One important detail often overlooked was that Port Moody actually became the first city in Metro Vancouver to sign a collective agreement in 2007 – agreed to before Richmond's deal. Port Moody's agreement was for approximately 39 months and would have provided their employees with 9.75% in pay increases. The signed agreement was set to expire last March – just at the end of the 2010 Games.
In theory, the management in Port Moody would by now have negotiated a new collective agreement with their employees. However, instead of trying to reach a new labour deal, Port Moody city council quietly chose to reward their employees with the same generous 17.5% deal provided by Richmond, Vancouver and other cities in the region.
You're probably wondering why the City of Port Moody would voluntarily dump a signed agreement that kept wage increases to around 10% over three years in favour of a costlier deal over five. We'd also like to know what Port Moody city council's logic was in making this deal.
The reality of doing labour deals in 2010 is altogether different than it was as the economy was peaking in 2007. About six months ago as CUPE employees sat across from City management demanding wage increases, they would have to face up to the new reality of a global economic downturn and dwindling tax revenue. Wage increases would be a tough sell.
As a comparison look what's recently happened in Victoria. Finance Minister Colin Hansen has signed two-year "net zero" agreements with both the BC Government Employees Union, as well as medical services unions. Due to current economic conditions, these BC public sector employees knew they were in no position to ask for wage increases. Contrast this with the City of Port Moody employees that will receive 4% this year and 4% next year under their new agreement.
CityCaucus.com contacted Gaetan Royer, City Manager for Port Moody to get his perspective on the issue. This no-nonsense civil servant pulls no punches when he states (our emphasis):