July 22nd, 2024

City notebook: How rare are wage freezes?

By Mo Cranker on August 5, 2017.

Is it too early to say summer is dwindling away?

August is dog days for news items of interest, but several council members say they are confident that they expect at least one outstanding labour contract to come soon before them for a ratification vote.

After happily stamping one-year wage freezes with largest union, CUPE, and firefighters, outstanding are deals with powerplant and line workers, represented by the IBEW, and the Medicine Hat Police Association.

But just how rare is it to secure a wage freeze in public sector?

Medicine Hat — which has two with two sizable unions — appears to be the only local-level jurisdiction of any size to accomplish the feat since at least 2002, according to wage tables from Alberta Labour.

The deal with 850 local inside, outside and transit workers is the biggest zero in the province over 15 years.

Other examples of wage freezes from Alberta’s 150 or so municipalities, and there’s only a handful:
— A three-worker unit at the Sundre Library signed an a first contract that gave them zero per cent in 2008 (then 16 per cent the next year).
— Nine town employees at Millet agreed to no raise last year.
— The City of Cold Lake settled on no raise for 2012 with its 168 employees, and Peace River pulled it off too in (2011).
The county of Forty Mile got zero from 60 workers in 2016. The County of Newell (19) this months agreed to Zero
So that’s all the municipal settlements, and only one other fire association has agreed to a wage freeze in contract talks.
By the by, the average raise for a union utility worker in Alberta in 2017 will be 2 per cent. That considers 15 major contracts with a mix of private and public centre entities.

Heritage Day
The August long weekend, also known as Heritage Day in Alberta, is upon us. Is it my imagination, or were there not at one time some sort of local multicultural festivities that accompanied the holiday?

Ironic, then, that this week the 2016 census revealed that Medicine Hat is more multicultural than ever considering the number of language groups here.

If not a long weekend festival, how bout an Oktoberfest at the very least?

Transit changes
You’ll be hearing about changes to the transit system this month, but council won’t be debating them.

The rejigged system, which the News has been told will involve widespread changes, possibly eliminating the central hub layout, was promised during budget discussions last December.

A better system at a lower cost was the promise of the review that has been going on more or less out of the spotlight for eight months.

It will need to be in place before September, to avoid instituting changes during the school and college academic year.

However, administrators at City Hall say that since the move is strictly operational — councillors approved the move to lower costs in late 2016 — it needn’t go back to committee or council level to be instituted.

A look ahead
Council convenes after the holiday weekend on Tuesday for its first meeting in one month. A slim agenda packet features some new construction contract awards, including the repaving work at the regional airport.

100 years ago
The “Borden government is incompetent, inefficient and unworthy of support,” read a resolution passed at the federal Liberal convention in Winnipeg and reprinted in the News on August 9, 1917.

Handling of the conscription issue and general management of the war effort was front and centre for Alberta Premier Arthur Sifton, who moved the resolution. The News editorial writers let their opinion be known: “A.L. Sifton for Prime Minister” read a headline.

The federal government also introduced Income Tax Act to replace the Excess Profits Tax, which charged 40 per cent on amounts earned over pre-war profit margins.

Locally, D. Cole proposed a unique fundraiser for the Red Cross. He would publicly butcher a prize hog at the market square and auction the cuts on the spot.

A month-long, spat between factions in Orion and Manyberries, stemming from rival Dominion Day Picnics and Fourth of July picnics, continued.

“Our slogan is ‘Always to the front’ and watch us stay there,” wrote a Manyberries-based correspondent. “How about you Orion? You’re awfully quiet.”

Collin Gallant covers city politics and a variety of topics for the News. Reach him at 403-528-5664 or via email at cgallant@medicinehatnews.com

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