Mayor Bratina and some members of the Hamilton Police Services Board no doubt feel stung by the criticism they have received for steadfastly supporting Police Chief Glenn DeCaire, throughout the budget process, only to have the chief agree to a 3.5 % budget increase that he had resisted days earlier. It’s not likely support for the chief in the next round of budgeting will be as solid as it was this year, and in the fallout of this debacle could result in the entire Police Services Board, not just Councillors Morelli and Whitehead, demanding more information before they approve spending.
Hopefully the wrangling is sending a message to the police unions as well. The public, right across the province has hit the wall when it comes to giving one sector of the public service raises that have consistently been better than the rest of the public service; and way, way better than the taxpaying public, which have seen salaries and benefits frozen or even decreased.
He appropriate battlefield for this debate is the upcoming provincial election. Only the province can make the necessary changes to provincial bargaining legislation that will restore some power back to municipalities to control compensation
A 2011 position paper drafted by major Ontario municipalities including Hamilton, calls for an overhaul of the arbitration system governing municipal emergency services. It notes that from 2005 to 2010 Police salaries in Ontario exceeded inflation by 77%, Fire was 89% higher than inflation and EMS went up 110%.
Noted the municipalities “arbitrators possess the power to make determinations that have a direct impact on municipal and provincial budgets yet they have no accountability for this decision-making power.” A recommended solution is to stop the current practice of comparing police services with each other for the purpose of determining a fair raise and instead, “consider not only comparisons to other emergency services workers within the municipality,”…but all public sector salaries.
If the current trend is allowed to continue, concludes the paper, “funds for emergency services salaries, which are by far the largest component of emergency services budgets, will have to come from increased taxes or reductions in key services such as transportation, public works, housing, etc. These increased emergency services labour costs are simply no longer sustainable.”