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Stage set for showdown on police pension plan changes

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The looming battle between city hall and the police union over pension plan changes will begin in the new year.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/12/2019 (1100 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The looming battle between city hall and the police union over pension plan changes will begin in the new year.

Keith LaBossiere, lawyer for the Winnipeg Police Association, said an arbitration hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 14, where the union will argue the City of Winnipeg doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally alter the police pension plan.

At its November meeting, city council narrowly approved a set of changes that, once fully implemented, is expected to result in annual savings of $12 million.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

In what was seen as a series of compromise moves on the floor council, the moves will not be implemented until April, and a bulk of the savings will be redirected to the Winnipeg Police Service.

Increasing police officer contributions is expected to collectively cost all police officers $5.5 million.

The police union has argued terms of the pension plan can only be altered through collective bargaining; city officials said details are set out in a bylaw, which council is free to change.

Organics pickup moves forward

A pilot project for a two-year curb-side organics program moved a step closer Tuesday.

Councillors on the executive policy committee voted unanimously to endorse the pilot, which would result in curbside kitchen waste pickup as part of the regular weekly garbage and recycling collection for 4,000 homes, beginning in fall 2020.

The project goes next to city council for approval.

An administrative report from the water and waste department said the expected $1.8 million cost of the pilot will be funded through the department’s waste diversion reserve account, with no cost to participating homes. However, if the project is deemed a success and rolled out city-wide in 2023, all homeowners will be charged an as-of-yet undetermined user fee.

Grey Cup bill due

City hall’s bill for last week’s Grey Cup victory parade will exceed $10,000.

Mayor Brian Bowman told reporters the city’s share of parade-related costs totals $10,463, adding the tab will be paid through the civic initiatives fund in the mayor’s office.

Infrastructure list on the books

A proposed priority ranking of infrastructure projects was accepted by EPC, but councillors said it doesn’t mean those projects will be constructed in the order of the ranking.

The administration developed the list of 45 projects (nothing less than $5 million) at the direction of council, which will be incorporated into development of the new four-year, 2020-23 budget plan. But the plan was criticized for its lack of council and public consultation, and for failing to prioritize projects that would support economic growth.

The top three projects on the list are: upgrades to the north end sewage treatment plant, relocating the insect control centre, and replacing residential water meters.

Bowman and finance chairman Coun. Scott Gillingham said the list is only a document intended to spark debate, adding any decision on which projects which will be constructed, and when, will be determined by council.

$15 minimum wage on hold

The prospects of a minimum hourly wage rate of $15 for civic employees look dim, after EPC voted to shelve a report on the proposal.

EPC members voted unanimously to accept as information a report examining the cost implications — a move often interpreted as outright rejection.

An administrative report found four per cent of the city’s workforce — mostly summer students, and staff in the library department and recreational services, and 311 customer service representatives — are paid less than $15 an hour, which is considered the minimum living wage by labour organizations across North America.

The current minimum wage in Manitoba is $11.65 an hour.

Impact fee adjustment

When council approved the controversial impact fee on new residential construction, it included annual increases based on construction inflation. What the administration never imagined was construction inflation going into the negative, which it did in 2019.

As a result, the executive policy committee amended Tuesday the fee bylaw allowing the rate to increase or decrease, based on construction inflation.

Annual increases were always capped at a maximum of five per cent, and EPC also opted to cap decreases to the same percentage.

Councillors were recently told construction inflation for the year had been minus-5.1 per cent (i.e. the average cost of a construction project had gone down 5.1 per cent for the same work the year before). The decrease to the impact fee, which takes effect Jan. 1, will be five per cent.

Since the fee went into effect May 1, 2017, the city has collected $26.7 million for new home construction on the suburban edge.

The impact fee was approved by council in October 2016. The homebuilders industry has since filed a legal challenge, which remains before court.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 12:59 PM CST: The average cost of a construction project went down 5.1 per cent.

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