The clock is slowly but inevitably ticking down towards the expiration of the current labour agreement between the Saanich Police Association and the Saanich Police Board.
The current three-year agreement expires on Dec. 31 and neither side has so far provided written notice to commence collective bargaining.
“Both the Saanich Police Association and the Saanich Police Board negotiate the collective bargaining agreement in good faith and, as such, it would be inappropriate to discuss potential negotiations in an open forum,” said Sgt. Jereme Leslie of the Saanich Police.
If neither side gives notice, the current agreement “shall continue in effect from year to year” until one of the parties gives notice.
The last agreement includes salary increases of 3.5 per cent for 2016, 2.5 per cent for 2017, and 2.5 per cent for 2018, and the pending expiration of the current labour agreement adds to the list of financial issues facing the incoming council.
Recent years have seen a number of controversies concerning labour costs and staffing decisions involving Saanich Police.
The public heard in the fall of 2017 that Saanich paid Chief Const. Bob Downie $378,790 following his retirement on July 31, 2017 then rehired him as a contractor for two years (plus an option year), with an annual salary of about $222,711 plus benefits, vacation, leaves of absence and expense reimbursements.
News of this arrangement caused public anger and prompted questions about the substance and style of the announcement in causing a public spat between then mayor, Richard Atwell, in his function as chair of the police board and the rest of council.
This spring, council and Downie went back and forth over the size of the police budget, with Downie warning of “unacceptable service reductions” after council had asked police to limit its requested budget increase to 3.5 per cent. Police had asked for an increase of 4.63 per cent and the two sides eventually settled on a “status quo” budget with an increase of 3.81 per cent.
Up-coming budget discussions will unfold against this background, and more importantly, costs associated with the homeless camp that occupied Regina Park for several months over the summer.
According to its 2018 budget submission, the Saanich Police department has 161 officers and 60 civilian support positions. Among 11 municipal police forces, Saanich Police has the second-lowest per capita-cost with $297 based on a population of 110,889 and a budget of 32.97 million, according to its own documents, with Oak Bay recording the lowest with $270. By comparison, Victoria’s per-capita-policing cost approaches $500 at $493.
The average per capita cost of the 11 municipal forces is $385.