April 19th, 2018

Police, city head to mediation

By Collin Gallant on February 13, 2018.


cgallant@medicinehatnews.com
@CollinGallant

Negotiators for the city and police union are now in mediation to resolve year-old contract talks — the last of five collective bargaining actions where city hall officials sought a wage freeze from employees.

Both sides declined to comment on the state or tenor of bargaining, but confirm to the News they are now working with a mediator.

City of Medicine Hat human resources manager James Will told the News he believes both sides are “actively participating” in the process to get a deal done, but would not comment further.

Similarly, Medicine Hat Police Association president Stacey Kesler declined comment, citing respect for the negotiating process.

The Alberta Ministry of Labour noted the appointment of a mediator in its most recent update to collective bargaining actions across the province.

The contract between the city and about 114 members of the Medicine Hat Police Association, representing officers and some administrative staff, expired at the end of 2016.

Since then the sides had met regularly, according to city officials.

The police deal is one of five major contracts that both top administrators and elected officials said would require a wage freeze for 2017 in order to meet budget goals set out in the “Financially Fit” budget process, adopted in early 2017.

Four others were brought in with no wage increase slated for that year, including pacts with firefighters, powerplant and powerline workers and the largest union, CUPE 46, which represents more than 800 inside, outside and transit workers.

Those contracts however — with three separate unions, including the International Association of Firefighters, Local 263 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 254 — include raises of about 2 per cent in other contract years.

However, the police contract has remained unresolved with both sides providing little information about what’s holding up the process.

Contracts talks with police officers are governed by specialized legislation. It’s not clear which side requested the discussions move before a mediator.

If a mediator determines the process is stalled, the process could move to an arbitration board that could impose terms on both sides.

The last contract year for the local police service was 2016, when a first-class constable made $46.61 per hour, which was the least of the four major municipal departments in the province.

For 2017, officer associations in Calgary, where officers earned $48.55 per hour, and Lethbridge ($47.81) bargained for raises of 2.5 and 2 per cent, respectively.

Officers in Edmonton, who made $47.13 in 2016, have also worked without a contract since the beginning of last year.

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