The City of Montreal announced plans Thursday to eliminate 2,200 jobs — or about 10 per cent of the city's workforce — over the next five years.
Mayor Denis Coderre said the cuts would eliminate one out of every two positions left vacant by retirement or other departing employees, although they would not include police or fire department staff.
'It’s easy… to target these low-ranking employees giving services to the population. This is shameful. You should target the managers.'- Richard Bergeron, Projet Montreal
The plan would save an estimated $240 million over five years, and up to $2 billion over 10 years, according to the city.
“While complying with collective agreements, we will take measures to reduce the number of employees and the annual wage budget,” Coderre said.
Michel Parent, the president of the blue-collar workers union, said he was surprised to learn of Coderre’s plans. He said that during his campaign for mayor, Coderre spoke about wanting to work with all city employees to give the people of Montreal better services.
On the day Coderre was sworn in, he directly addressed city workers, telling them, “You are actors of change. You are part of the solution. We need you, and count on me to defend the employees of the city of Montreal.”
Target managers, not blue collars
Projet Montreal leader Richard Bergeron said the cuts would affect the wrong type of workers.
“It’s easy… to target these low-ranking employees giving services to the population. This is shameful. You should target the managers,” Bergeron said.
Rosemont-La Petite Patrie mayor François Croteau said the job cuts would also spell service cuts for residents.
Coderre said the bulk of the savings would go toward improvements to the city’s infrastructure. In order to become a reality, however, the plan will require the agreement of the city's boroughs — and about 30 per cent of the cuts are expected to involve borough employees.
Coderre said that it would be the boroughs' loss if they voted against the measures.
"They need more money for infrastructure and we're willing to do it, let's all work together," he said.
Employees make up half the city budget
According to city documents, salaries and benefits for its employees now represent just under 52 per cent of its total budget, an increase of more than nine per cent since 2002.
At the same time, the city is facing an annual deficit of around $800 million when it comes to infrastructure maintenance.
The city budgets an average of $1.3 billion for infrastructure maintenance, but its actual estimated needs call for $2.1 billion.
Coderre said the city’s new five and 10-year plans will hopefully close that gap.
"We have a light at the end of the tunnel," Coderre said.
A look at city employment figures between 2004 and 2014 show decreases in the white-collar, blue-collar and management categories, but a significant increase in the number of "professionals" hired by the city over the past decade.
When asked about this, Coderre said that it's something they will have to consider.
"We will take a look. All the departments will have to do their homework," he said.