Police officers in large cities are disadvantaged when they are paid in small towns in the same way as police officers, but they face a dramatic increase in the cost of living. Bruce J.A. found that arbitrators who simply use external wage parity to resolve wage disputes distort the collective bargaining process. Wage parity is a formal term for similarity in wages. In other words, the arbitrator cannot simply say medicine to the police should pay X, because the Toronto police paid X. The City of Medical Hat wants to be a big employer. We want to set a good example for the private sector, but the choice is not between a private company (looking for profits) and a union – it is the taxpayer and the police. It is in the public interest for both of them to have fair business. And the cost of local living needs to be more taken into account in each subdivision. We know that modern policing is brutally difficult.
The Canadian Police Association says its members are facing a higher workload. I got a taste of it at a police ride in December 2019. The police go from call to appeal. It is a long, difficult day of work and there is good evidence that police work is becoming more and more difficult. It is also becoming increasingly difficult to recruit police officers to work at Medicine Hat. But if it is not enough to pay the local police more than Toronto`s salaries to attract the right people, there is obviously something else going on that we should address. The arbitrator will try to counter a fair and reasonable agreement. The definition of what is “fair and reasonable” begins with the consideration of other collective agreements in the same sector and geography to be used as comparators. I voted against the 2017-2020 collective agreement (up 8% over 4 years) in April 2019.
My voice is not ideological. I am not automatically for or against unions. With this specific collective agreement, I felt that local economic conditions did not justify this wage increase. The Commission often has to balance competing values, and these are difficult discussions. This is particularly the case for discussions on union wages. These are not considered “legal” copies of contracts/agreements. If you need more information or a signed copy, email or call Labour Relations at 403-268-2236. Paying the Hat Medicine police more than the Toronto police hurts us because we do not have the same purchasing power as Toronto. The cost of living is cheaper in Medicine Hat, so work is cheaper – it`s one of the main competitive advantages of small towns.