Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/2/2012 (3429 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Mayor Sam Katz probably regrets saying several months ago police are underpaid -- "None of us would do that job for what they get paid" -- but he needn't worry too much since the arbitrator in the current wage dispute between the city and police will hopefully base his final decision on more reliable evidence.
Everyone can agree police officers should be fairly compensated for their valuable service. Their work is frequently dangerous, frightening and highly emotional. The stress takes a toll on both the officers and their families. Many have been injured, physically and mentally.
But what constitutes fair compensation for police officers, and how do you determine it? There is no easy answer, but their current pay scale and generous benefits would appear to be reasonable. They are far above the norm in society, higher, in fact, than most civic workers, with the exception of those with advanced degrees in engineering, law and accounting, or those in the highest office.
The basic requirements for a police officer are a Grade 12 education, good physical fitness and a clean record, not too different than the eligibility rules for joining the army, which pays significantly less for junior ranks.
A first-class constable earns nearly $80,000 and up to $100,000 a year, if overtime and special duty are included. The rates are roughly comparable to those in Edmonton and Calgary, where the cost of living is higher but the taxes are lower. Edmonton is also a high-crime city with significant social problems, including a high number of homeless people.
The Winnipeg police union is seeking an 11.5 per cent increase over two years, which is not warranted on the basis of any evidence. More puzzling, however, is the city's generous initial offer of 6.47 per cent over two years at a time when public employees everywhere are being asked to hold the line.
The police union has been trying to demonstrate that the job has become significantly more demanding and dangerous in recent years, even though the overall crime rate is falling. The union will need to provide convincing evidence officers are doing their jobs better, or they face major new threats, to justify more than a cost-of-living increase in this economic environment.