City of Calgary paid out nearly $27M in pay increases last year
City manager says most increases due to collective agreements or arbitration
Nearly 14,000 employees with the City of Calgary and the Calgary Police Service were given pay raises last year, the additional pay totalling more than $27 million.
Most city unions accepted pay freezes in 2018 and 2019 in order to get a 1.5 per cent raise last year.
But even during times of cutbacks, City Manager David Duckworth says salary increases happen for a number of reasons including promotions, moving up a salary grid as per a union contract, or when arbitrators make rulings.
Duckworth says the city's payroll tops $2 billion a year and that more than half of the city's budget is for salaries, wages and benefits.
He says the city has fewer employees now than it did in 2013 and administration has found hundreds of millions of dollars of savings in recent years.
"We've only filled, for example, vacant positions that are critical positions to maintain the services that Calgarians expect and last October — I don't know what the headcount is now — but last October, we were near 2013 levels," Duckworth said.
Some councillors are not happy about the $27 million in pay increases, but Coun. Ward Sutherland says everything possible has been done to control costs.
"I was actually the only one in council, during council, to ask the leaders of the unions to take a wage cut and it has to be voluntary, we couldn't force it. And of course, their answer was no," Sutherland said.
"The the union contract was zero overall. So in between, if people move to different job descriptions, that changes."
Sutherland said there are nuances to a city budget.
"I would like to remind Calgarians that the costs have been cut, that people are being laid off, the reductions are occurring, and that's a fact," he said.
"And just to use the fact that, you know, people move in different grades is — it's really a political game and doesn't help anybody. And we appreciate the fact that people are unemployed. But there's also regulations and laws that we have to follow, whether we agree with them or not. And to play this game is really disingenuous."
Sutherland added that many of the negotiated raises are out of the city's control.
"And I wish we had the legislative authority to say, you know, people can't move within different job groups and get different pay, but that's not the case," he said.
An external report done for the city found its salaries are not out of line with the private sector or other municipalities.
With files from Scott Dippel