Winnipeg taxpayers may be off the hook for union president’s wages
The City of Winnipeg could soon stop paying a union president’s salary.
“I think union members should be on the hook for paying the union leaders salary,” said Mayor Brian Bowman.
A new tentative three-year deal is on the table between the city and the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, which would see a 2 per cent wage increase in year one, 1.9 per cent in year two, and 2 per cent for year three.
City finance committee chair Scott Gillingham says that is in line with the last contract and the Consumer Price Index.
“And so I believe this is in the affordability rate of the City of Winnipeg,” said Gillingham.
The deal would remove one of the more contentious issues between the union and the city. Taxpayers would no longer foot the bill for any of UFFW President Alex Forrest’s salary or benefits starting in May. Right now, the city pays 60 per cent, a cost estimated at around $60,000.
“I think it’s a win for the members but I also think more importantly from my perspective it’s a win for taxpayers,” said Mayor Brian Bowman. “It was one of those things we inherited.”
The trade-off will see that money used for an addiction and mental health fund.
“I do think this is an elegant solution, it’s a solution that there is a lot of mutual interest in,” said Coun. Sherri Rollins, who chairs the protection committee.
However, Councillor Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) is not so sure.
“How much did we pay so people could save political face to have the members of the union agree to that?” he said.
Klein worries the city may have bent on other items to get Forrest’s salary covered. On top of that, the UFFW claimed the city missed a pre-negotiation deadline to submit proposals, arguing only union demands could be heard.
“It would take a lot to convince me that the city didn’t pay a lot because we didn’t put forward our proposal on time according to the UFFW,” said Klein.
A city report recommending council approve the deal suggests that problem was avoided.
It says by negotiating the deal, it removes the risk of a settlement through binding arbitration, which would have been complicated because of the “missed deadline objection” raised by the union.
“I think we got the best deal we could get,” said Bowman. “I think there was some negotiating that was happening at the table and then there were repeated comments by this particular union leader through the media.”
UFFW President Alex Forrest says he is declining comment until city council approves the deal.
The agreement also includes an additional $104,500 annually for mental health supports within the fire paramedic service.