Council makes symbolic gesture to pass on pay hike
Savings may go to support student nutrition
(Written Feb. 8 for Town Crier.)
Council voted almost unanimously today not to accept a cost of living increase with many saying that they needed to set an example for city employees going into a year of contract negotiations.
This year, the city will be negotiating a number of new contracts including one with the TTC as that contract expires at the end of March, and CUPE Local 416’s contract including garbage collectors is up at the end of 2011.
“When those (contract) negotiations start, the first thing everyone will look at is what have we done with respect to our leadership on this,” said budget chief Mike Del Grande during the debate.
He said refusing this 2.6 percent cost of living increase sets the right tone since they are seeking budget cutbacks from city departments and asking employees to show restraint in wage demands.
“We have asked for sacrifices throughout the system and we can start with ourselves,” he said after the vote.The mostly symbolic gesture means the city will save about $118,326.
Councillor Joe Mihevc proposed his colleagues all reject their salary hike but then use the sum total to increase the student nutrition program, which is flat lined in the 2011 proposed budget.
“This is an opportunity to do the right thing for the right reasons,” said Mihevc during the debate. “This allows us to line up together in a way that helps kids.”
His motion was referred off to the budget committee for consideration, which could have meant a surefire death for the plan. So Mihevc, along with councillors John Filion and Ron Moeser, voted against the salary freeze.
After the vote, Mihevc explained his position.
“This debate is all about symbolism and for me linking it to the anti-politician rhetoric that frankly comes out of our mayor’s mouth on a regular basis … was too much so I rejected that motion on that basis,” he said.
“Is (this issue) linked to this whole anti-politician rhetoric and the gravy train and how we are all a bunch of overpaid, pencil pushers not really serving the community?” asked Mihevc. “Or are we serving our community and acting in solidarity to those people in our community that need support? And that’s why I tried to link the issue of our salary decrease with the student nutrition.”
After the debate, councillor Del Grande said he will support Mihevc’s idea of tying the savings from cuts to politicians pay to increase support for breakfast and lunch programs in schools.
“I have the motion here and it will be a onetime increase for 2011. I made a commitment to take it to the budget committee (for approval),” Del Grande said after the debate.
“That makes me feel quite good about the cut we made today,” Mihevc said in the end.
Councillors currently earn $99,619.52 while the mayor’s salary is $167,769.94.