Ottawa

New Ottawa police contract focuses on health, well-being of officers

Ottawa police negotiate first contract without forced arbitration since 2008

Ottawa Police

A report on officer wellness released earlier this spring found a steady increase in the amount of lost time due to trauma and mental health issues. The new contract is aimed at improving the situation. (CBC)

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Unlimited psychological services and more sleep between shifts are among the new benefits for Ottawa police officers in their first negotiated contract in nine years.

The contract — now made retroactive to January 2016 — was approved by the Ottawa Police Services Board Monday, and also includes an average two per cent annual salary increase over four years.

The unlimited psychological services and more sleep between shifts are a response to the findings of a report released earlier this spring that assessed the wellness of officers.

The report found a steady increase in the amount of lost time due to trauma and mental health issues, with 59 per cent of long-term disability claims in 2016 related to mental health.

Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof said that while unlimited psychological services are offered at just a small number of police services in Canada, the few that do have found the costs low compared to offering unlimited massage therapy, for example.

'Prevent people from going off work'

Another concession in the new deal doesn't force officers working on the night shift to have to report to court to testify the next day.

"Sleep is a very big component of our wellness strategy," said Skof, referring to the spring report's findings. "If you look at recovery from traumatic events, sleep is definitely a top priority."

Overall, Skof calls the new benefits proactive.

"It's very beneficial for the department to offer these benefits to get quicker recovery times, or prevent people from going off work," he said.

Matt Skof, Ottawa Police Association President

Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof said the new benefits are proactive. (CBC)

'Not so much about nickels and dimes'

Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, said the board felt strongly that the benefits would be beneficial for the whole community.

"Honestly, do you really want to see a police officer suffer with mental health when he has a weapon at his side?" he asked.

"This contract negotiation was not so much about nickels and dimes," he said, though he added the contract came in under-budget.

'The goal here is to make sure we have a healthy workforce who can take care of themselves, so that they can take care of the community.' - Eli El-Chantiry, Ottawa Police Services Board chair

"The goal here is to make sure we have a healthy workforce who can take care of themselves, so that they can take care of the community."

The board also wants to make sure that if officers want help, the door is open, "because there's still a stigma out there," he said.

Some other contract highlights include:

  • Pro-rated vacation in the year of retirement.
  • Wage increases that reflect cost of living increases​.
  • A retroactive 2.05 per cent pay increase in 2016.
  • A 1.9 per cent increase in 2017.
  • Split increases in 2018 and 2019, with a 1 per cent increase effective Jan. 1 in both years and a 0.79 per cent increase on July 1, 2018, and a 0.99 per cent increase on July 1, 2019.

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