The City of Winnipeg has notified the mayor and city councillors it plans to move forward with a proposal to remove overtime from the pensionable earnings of police officers, according to an email obtained by CTV News Winnipeg.
In the email sent to the mayor and city councillors, interim chief administrative officer Mike Ruta wrote he’s sending a letter to the Winnipeg Police Association and Winnipeg Police Senior Officers’ Association advising the groups that the city will be proceeding with a report for council consideration proposing changes to the City of Winnipeg Police Pension Plan.
Ruta wrote the city is seeking affordable and sustainable changes to the plan.
“One of the proposed amendments is to remove overtime from pensionable earnings and then reinvest savings estimated to be $1.5 million annually into police operations,” Ruta wrote. “Other amendments include equal sharing of plan costs and adjustments to early retirement provisions. Generally these proposed revisions are consistent with other similar pension plans.”
Ruta’s email states the city has held talks and corresponded with the police associations on the plan, but so far no revisions have been brought forward for council approval.
The report will be submitted to council in the fall and if approved, revisions would be implemented Jan. 1, 2020, according to the email.
Winnipeg Police Association president Moe Sabourin told CTV News Winnipeg he received the letter from the city but has yet to release it to members.
Sabourin said meetings will take place Thursday to share the content of the letter with members and come up with a plan of action.
“We acknowledge receipt of a letter from Mike Ruta that indicates that they are unilaterally attempting to change benefits at the September meeting,” said Sabourin. “It’s more than just pensionable overtime; it is a complete overhaul of benefits that our members are entitled to.”
Sabourin said the police association has obtained legal opinions that pensionable overtime is a negotiated item which he said can only be changed through collective bargaining.
The police association may have more to say Friday, following Thursday’s meetings, Sabourin said.
In response to CTV News’ questions about the proposal, the city said section 14 of the bylaw governing the Winnipeg Police Pension Plan allows it to modify or terminate provisions of the plan with council's approval. It points to a 2011 report on the pension plan, approved by council, which gave the city the power to explore all options to reduce “the significant financial impact related to the solvency deficiency rules” and recommend a course of action for council to consider.
“In consideration of council’s instructions in 2011, the city has been undertaking a review of the defined benefit plan to determine what changes could be made to allow it to continue and provide a stable source of retirement income to the valued members of the Winnipeg Police Service,” the city said.
The city said it’s had discussions with the police associations over the years but those talks haven’t resulted in any changes to the pension plan.
Mayor Brian Bowman campaigned on a promise to remove police overtime pay from pensionable earnings.
Bowman wasn't available for interviews Wednesday, but in an emailed statement he said the move would free up money to put additional officers on the street.
Some councillors don’t agree with how the city’s proposing to make the change.
"I don't support it,” said Coun. Ross Eadie. “We should not be unilaterally deciding what happens with the police pension plan.
"What should be happening is during the collective bargaining process sessions they should be looking at trade-offs and stuff because usually there's compromises."
Reached by phone, Coun. Brian Mayes said he’s not opposed to saving money, but he doesn’t think the city should be making changes to negotiated benefits in the pension plan outside of the collective bargaining process.
In an email to CTV News Winnipeg, Coun. Kevin Klein, chairperson of the Winnipeg Police Board, questioned the timing of the proposal.
“Is this simply a political move for good press?” said Klein. “I prefer a more reasonable approach. Open discussions on the pensionable OT and the increase of pension contribution percentages. Not just send a letter and see what happens. This will become a labour issue.”