The Saanich Police Board and the union representing its police force have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement.
The new agreement is a three-year-long deal retroactive to January 1, 2016. It includes salary increases of 3.5 per cent on January 1, 2016, 2.5 per cent on January 1, 2017 and 2.5 per cent on January 1, 2018. According to wages posted online, Saanich police salaries range between $64,516 and $105,990 as of Jan. 1, 2015.
The previous bargain had expired on December 31, 2015, and the new arrangement impacts 203 workers, said Sgt. Jereme Leslie, public information officer. This figure includes uniformed Saanich Police members, as well as some civilian staff, who are not members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) or management employees, he said.
A joint release from Saanich Police and the Saanich Police Association says the “negotiated increases are consistent with agreements reached by most other municipal police departments in British Columbia” and “consistent” with agreements reached in Victoria and Central Saanich.
“We understand we get paid competitively,” said Leslie. “As [officers], we strive for excellence when helping our community, and we hope, as we stay consistent with other police agencies salaries, we can continue to attract the best people to work in our community and not lose any of our quality [officers] to other police services.”
The new agreement also includes other adjustments to benefits and allowances, and language updates to reflect current legislation and changes in practices, according to a joint release from the Saanich Police Board and the Saanich Police Association.
“One of the largest impacts to the average [officer] is mostly health related, specifically the ability to seek out psychological services,” he said. “The [association] wanted to ensure that our members had the ability to seek help for some of the terrible things they encounter while working. The [association] brought this forward to [management] and [management] agreed. There will hopefully be a long term health benefit for our members, and a reduction in costs associated to occupational stress injuries, such as PTSD.”
The new agreement also includes more inclusive language. “Language surrounding individuals’ sexual orientation and gender identity has been changed,” said Leslie. “Our same sex benefit language is now more inclusive and there are no more traditional ‘he/she’ roles.”
News of the agreement comes after the public had heard this September Saanich paid Chief Constable Bob Downie $378,790 in combined retirement allowance and accrued time following his retirement on July 31, only to rehire 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.
The move caused considerable criticism, if not outrage, but Mayor Richard Atwell, who chairs the police board, has defended the arrangement as a “good deal for Saanich taxpayers”that saves more than $22,000 and decouples Downie’s salary from the collective agreement.
Downie, speaking before council, last month told the public that his compensation package and employment arrangement represents an “exception.”