Municipal mayors argue city workers better paid than provincial workers
Published Tuesday, August 19, 2014 7:47AM EDT
Westmount mayor Peter Trent and demerged cities in Montreal said that they have been studying salaries across Quebec and as a consequence are poking holes in union arguments.
Since Bill 3 was tabled many civil servants have argued that they accepted lower pay raises in consecutive contracts in order to maintain their benefits such as defined benefit pension programs.
The Association of Suburban Muncipalities on the Island of Montreal said that according to its analysis, the average municipal worker is earning at least a third more than his provincial counterpart.
Trent said the salaries of unionized city workers are 18 percent higher than that of civil servants, and that when benefits are taken into account the total renumeration is 38 percent higher.
Trent said the difference can be traced to a 1982 rollback in pay on the provincial side, which was followed by a decade of arbitrated contracts in the '90s which were, in his opinion, overly generous toward workers.
"And in dealing with the unions, unlike Quebec, we can't issue an order in council we can't legislate salaries. We can't do that, we don't have that power," said Trent.
The ASM said the "One-Island, One-City" merger process also saw municipal employee salary packages increase across the board.
Trent added the idea that unionized workers have accepted lower salaries in order to maintain benefits and pensions was not accurate.
He also said that while he supports Bill 3, it is wrong to blame muncipalities for the freeze in city-made pension benefits that have occurred repeatedly.
"We are the weak people in the municipal field and the provincial government has actually made the situation worse by allowing the pension fund holidays that paid for downloading that went to where? Went to the provincial government," said Trent.
The ASM generated its figures from a study conducted by the Institut de la statistique du Québec which does not include firefighters, police officers or paramedics.
Unions say pressure tactics are gaining support
Meanwhile two banners were unveiled at the Jacques Cartier Bridge and the Lafontaine tunnel on Monday featuring the mayors of Quebec City and Montreal.
In a parody of the Hema-Quebec ads encouraging blood donations, the images of Regis Labeaume and Denis Coderre are "United to Bleed You Dry."
Union representative Marc Ranger, who represents the umbrella group of civil servants, said he finds the banners funny but he is unaware of who created them.
Since many civil servants, such as firefighters and police officers, do not have the right to strike they have been using other methods to drum up public opposition to the pension reform bill.
Those include plastering stickers reading "We stole nothing" over city vehicles, an act which Ranger said has been successful.
"I would not say that they're not working. I say that some are more questionable. But each and every one of them are making us talk about the issue," said Ranger.
"I have never seen such interest over stickers. For the first 30 seconds we talk about stickers and then we talk about the real issues."
"At the end of the day it's a big coalition and we have to agree on these big pressure tactics," said Ranger.
Parliamentary hearings on Bill 3 begin Wednesday Aug. 20 in the National Assembly.