Brandon 911 dispatchers' 16.5% wage hike over 6 years approved by city

Brandon city council has accepted a new contract that will give 911 dispatchers a raise of 16.5 per cent over the next six years.

Councillor expects scrutiny from public who find increase a 'little rich'

Brandon city council voted at a special meeting Monday to accept a new contract for the city's 911 dispatchers. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

Brandon city council has accepted a new contract that will give 911 dispatchers a raise of 16.5 per cent over the next six years.

The deal will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2016, and will expire Dec. 31, 2021. It would see Brandon dispatchers get 2.5 per cent raises in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and three per cent raises in 2019, 2020 and 2021. It's a wage hike some city councillors took issue with at a meeting on Monday afternoon. 

"I think it might be a little bit rich for the public's appetite," said councillor Glen Parker. "We'll be open to some scrutiny I'm afraid."

Other councillors raised similar concerns but respected the process the city and union took to reach the agreement, which the union called fair.

"I'm excited that we were able to negotiate the increase that we have," said Terry Browett, president of IAFF Local 803, the union representing Brandon's firefighters, paramedics and dispatchers. "It brings us closer to the middle of the pack of a lot of the other dispatch centres that we compare to in Western Canada and in Manitoba."

The department currently has about 30 dispatchers who spend the majority of their time answering 911 calls and dispatching emergency services for Brandon and about 150 rural fire departments, Browett said. The Brandon-based crew also answers calls for Manitoba's tribal police departments. 

The area the dispatchers cover contains about 500,000 people.

All but three members of council were present at Monday's meeting for the vote. While some had concerns about the deal, others felt it was important to respect the work the dispatchers do. 

"It is a very high-paced and incredibly stressful job," councillor Lonnie Patterson said. "They do really important work, not only for citizens of Brandon but also the rest of the province."

Wages were a sticking point in the negotiations, but the union also had concerns about working conditions and staffing levels, Browett said, but he's confident the new deal addresses those concerns.

The department is in the midst of hiring more dispatchers, he said. 

"I hope they [city council] can see the larger picture and realize that this wage increase is literally pennies per customer in the province," he said. 

"It's not that big of an increase in that they [city council] can budget over those six years and easily compensate the staff and show that appreciation to the staff." 

Dispatchers are paid by the city but rural Manitobans also pay a per capita rate to cover the costs of operating the centre.

The dispatchers have been without a contract since the beginning of 2016.