Yes to worker pay cut, no council cut

Non-union employees get pay freeze, councillors keep their own wage hike
Mayor Miller and some councillors give back their pay increase to city
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally published April 27/09 for Town Crier.)

Members of the city’s Executive Committee froze inflationary pay hikes for non-union employees but voted not to do the same for themselves.
By rejecting a motion put forward by councillors Case Ootes and Karen Stintz to freeze all city politicians salaries for 2009, the issue won’t go on to city council for a vote. 
“We asked for a salary freeze and Executive Committee did not take that position,” said Stintz after committee’s vote on April 7. “The issue is dead.” 
Nonetheless, council members can still voluntarily donate their 2.42-percent cost of living increase to the city. 
As of April 8, Mayor David Miller and 16 councillors have agreed to do just that, said Celine Chiovitti, acting director of pensions, payroll and employee benefits at city hall.Chiovitti said she couldn’t reveal which councillors are donating wages back to the city but several have come forward, including three east-end reps: Ootes, who sponsored the motion, Janet Davis and Paula Fletcher. 
Either way, the move is symbolic.

The pay hike amounts to $1,700 yearly per councillor or $1,200 after income tax deductions and for the mayor it’s about $3,465 or $2,482 after taxes, said Chiovitti.
With 17 council members on board so far the net total will mean less than $22,000 going back to the city. 
However, those who do donate it back will receive a tax receipt for it.
Earlier at the same committee meeting, councillors debated removing the 2009 cost of living adjustments for non-unionized staff and only allowing a 1 percent living increase in 2010.
While the committee froze inflationary pay increases for non-union staff, these employees could still qualify for salary hikes based on performance, according to a staff report.
The government’s currently negotiating with city union locals 79 and 416 as their contracts expired at the end of last year. So compensation for unions was not part of the debate. 
Richard Majkot, executive director of the organization that represents non-union employees, said all city staff should be treated the same.
“We want council to treat all employees fairly and equally,” he said in a deputation to the committee. “We have recommended zero cost of living adjustments for two years only if it applies to all employees.
“Otherwise, if union employees get a cost of living increase, non-union employees should get that as well,” Majkot said.
It’s non-union staff that people go to in a time of need.
“During SARS and workplace disruptions, these are the people who keep the city running,” he concluded.
Miller said the decision was a tough one to make.
“It’s so difficult to bring forward a recommendation like this because at the same time we are asking people to recognize the need for restraint we are asking them to work harder even harder than ever,” he said. “That’s a difficult thing to do.” 
Stintz said the committee approved one set of rules for politicians and another for employees.
“It was important for councillors to stand beside our non-unionized staff by accepting a pay freeze because that is what we are asking from our employees and that’s what we should be asking of ourselves.”

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