A newly-proposed contract for Toronto police officers would see wages increase by 11.1 per cent over five years, the Star has learned.
That wage increase, negotiated in a tentative deal between the police association and the board that was obtained by the Star, is a slight increase over the previous four-year contract, which saw a cumulative wage hike of 8.64 per cent for police members, and comes without any major concessions, according to the police association. The new deal would in fact see increases in benefits for all uniformed and civilian members as well as an additional 3 per cent pay boost for front-line officers.
According to the police association, the Toronto police board was unable to extract any major concessions during negotiations. (Andrew Lahodynskyj / Toronto Star File Photo)
In what Mayor John Tory and his budget chief Councillor Gary Crawford have claimed is a “tough” budget year, the negotiated contract is also in stark contrast to the continuing below-inflation yearly increases and cuts to benefits and job security accepted by most of the city’s other unionized workers.
The police contract is notably better for employees than the one agreed to by the city’s more than 20,000 inside workers, such as child-care providers, cleaners and shelter employees, and 5,400 outside workers. Those contracts between the city and CUPE Local 79 and CUPE Local 416, signed in 2016, saw a 5 per cent cumulative increase over four years for workers while some job security was stripped and benefits reduced.
The Star obtained a copy of the package presented to members by the police association at a meeting Tuesday night.
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In a written Q&A about the deal, the association’s leaders wrote: “The bargaining process is one of compromise, but we strongly feel that this tentative agreement represents many positive gains, some of which are ground-breaking, for our members.”
If approved, the deal would see salaries rise retroactively by 2 per cent for the first part of 2019, then another 0.5 per cent in the second half of the year. The same increases would take place in 2020, followed by a 1 per cent then 0.97 per cent increase in 2021, a full year 1.85 per cent increase in 2022 and finally 1.75 per cent in 2023. Because the increases compound over time, the pay bump over five years amounts to 11.1 per cent.
A first class constable — the highest tier in that junior rank earned after several years on the force — made $98,452 in 2018.
There would also be an additional 3 per cent increase on base pay for front-line officers in each division across the city answering emergency 911 calls who have been employed more than five years starting this September. The package to members said the Toronto association is the first in Canada to secure this within a collective agreement and the settlement agreement reached says it is “in recognition of” the type of work those officers do.
The contract also includes health benefit increases for dental, therapy and other treatments as well as extending the top-up paid during parental leave from 10 to 15 weeks.
The police board, an arm of the city of which Tory is a member, was not able to extract any major concessions from officers, according to the police association.
Significantly, the package presented to officers says the board was seeking to negotiate separate contracts for uniformed and civilian officers in order to, according to the package, “give a smaller wage increase and fewer improvements to our civilians’ total compensation.”
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The deal would see civilian members receive the same benefits and wage increases as their uniformed colleagues.
Two contentious issues that could dramatically affect the police budget remain unresolved in this yet-to-be-approved contract — changing shift schedules and the number of officers per car.
The package says that shift schedules were not part of the negotiations, saying it posed a significant risk to reaching an agreement outside of arbitration. Adjusting shifts is currently subject to a pilot project.
The deal also protects the rule of having two officers per patrol car. However, the package says the association and board can “mutually agree” to ignore that rule to “improve the capacity of the service to more flexibly meet operational demands.”
“We bargained for a fair contract,” police association president Mike McCormack told the Star. “We think that this reflects the nature of the work and the challenges that we have in the City of Toronto.”
In statement, Tory said he was glad the two sides had reached a deal and that it will “allow us to focus on community safety and work together on modernization.” The Star asked how the mayor justified a deal for police that is vastly different from what was negotiated with other unionized workers. He said he was unable to discuss the details on a tentative contract until it is ratified by members.
“My goal throughout this process — and any bargaining process — is to negotiate agreements that are fair both to the residents of Toronto and to our officers and civilian employees relative to the work they do. I believe these agreements achieve that and I know that at all times throughout this process the financial state of the City was taken into consideration.”
Budget committee member Councillor Shelley Carroll, who was previously on the police board and was part of their negotiating team on the last contract, said officers have historically enjoyed above-inflation increases and increased benefits post-amalgamation to entice officers to remain with the force — well above other city workers.
“What this is, is really a matter of fairness and equity,” she said. “There’s a disparity opening up here and eventually that’s going to start to show in the performance across the public sector. A long-term care worker who does the difficult things with our parents that we don’t want to do and can’t do has a really hard job all day long. It may not be life-threatening but it is hard work. And if we’re really saying that we need increases, where’s that person’s increase?”
After recent violent events, many which received widespread news coverage this summer ahead of the municipal election, Tory and his budget committee have already backed a $30-million budget hike for police, pushing their budget back over $1 billion after years of flatlining under a plan meant to modernize the service.
Salaries and benefits make up the vast majority of that budget, accounting for nearly 90 per cent of the total expenditures made in 2018, according to city budget documents.
There is money built into the 2019 budget in anticipation of possible wage increases resulting from a deal with the police association, a city spokesperson confirmed, though the total financial impact has not yet been spelled out.
The police budget overall remains the single biggest line item in the city’s $13.5 billion operating budget, which is funded by $4.3 billion collected from property taxes. The budget will be finalized by council on March 7.
The voting period for police members on whether to accept the new contract will close the same day at midnight.
Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags
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