Pension plan vote closes year for council


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A series of recorded votes on changes to the police pension plan marked the last Winnipeg city council meeting of the year.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/12/2019 (1206 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A series of recorded votes on changes to the police pension plan marked the last Winnipeg city council meeting of the year.

While councillors approved the unilateral changes to the pension plan in a tight, 9-7 vote at a November meeting, the changes still needed to be enacted with amendments to the plan bylaw.

Historically at city hall, bylaw approvals are routine matters, but there was a request for a recorded vote Thursday. In a series of three identical votes (bylaws must be approved with three votes or readings), the amended bylaw was approved 10-6.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Brian Bowman remained firm in his support of the move, while Winnipeg Police Association president Maurice Sabourin reiterated the union will fight the changes.

The union is challenging through the collective bargaining process, with a grievance hearing before an independent labour arbitrator set to begin Jan. 14.

Sabourin said the union is prepared to eventually take the matter to court for a judicial review: “Considering the stakes that are in play right now, our membership would want us to take it to the nth degree.”

Bowman told reporters city hall can’t afford to continue to contribute to what he has described as an unsustainable pension plan, adding the police union has been unwilling to consider any alternatives.

“The message (the WPA is) providing is one of a broken record: ‘more money, more money, more money,’” the mayor said. “We need to look at how we use the resources, taxpayer dollars, more efficiently to get better results.”

At the November meeting, council narrowly approved a series of unilateral changes to the pension bylaw that will shift $12 million in annual costs from city hall onto individual police members: removing overtime as a pensionable earning; increasing police officer contributions while reducing city contributions; and changing early retirement provisions.

The changes take effect April 1.

Originally, the plan was only to redirect the savings from removing OT as pensionable earnings, about $1.5 million annually, to the police service budget, with the remaining savings to be reallocated by council.

However, in a move described as a compromise, council supported a proposal from Coun. Markus Chambers that would direct the bulk of the savings to the police budget.

Support and opposition to the bylaw amendment were similar to the voting on the changes at the November meeting, with only Coun. Vivian Santos switching sides.

Approving the bylaw were: Bowman and councillors Matt Allard, Jeff Browaty, Chambers, Scott Gillingham, Cindy Gilroy, Janice Lukes, John Orlikow, Sherri Rollins and Santos. In opposition were: councillors Ross Eadie, Kevin Klein, Brian Mayes, Shawn Nason, Jason Schreyer and Devi Sharma.

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