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Four-year wage increases kick in for RMOW staff

6.7 per cent in backdated raises based on Lower Mainland agreements

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The municipality will be paying $1.5 million in staff wage increases to cover its new four-year agreement with the majority of its employees.

The agreement spans 2012-2015 with a 6.75 per cent salary increase in that time, marking the end of a year and a half in limbo without a wage settlement.

"I think it's good for both management and staff to bring some closure to this," said Chief Administrative Officer Mike Furey, adding that there is always speculation when agreements have yet to be settled.

"We're pleased that we're able to settle with this number."

The last staff wage increase was in 2011 at four per cent, marking the end of a four-year deal that resulted in a 17.5 per cent cumulative raise from 2007 — a deal that was based on unionized wage increases and one that raised eyebrows and ire in the community.

The new year-over-year increases in the agreement are as follows — 1.25 per cent in 2012, 1.75 per cent in 2013, 1.75 per cent in 2014 and 2.0 per cent in 2015.

The year and a half retroactive pay — $290,000 for 2012 and roughly $200,000 until August 2013 — will come from surpluses in savings within this year's budget.

As of September, the wage increases will be built into the $24.3 million payroll, which includes wages, overtime and employer payroll costs.

"We are pleased to finalize this as we begin the 2014-2018 budget planning process," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. "The Finance and Audit Committee is committed to establishing budgets that balance the most effective use of public funds to operate the programs, services and initiatives of our resort community."

Since taking the helm of the organization in September 2011, Furey at the behest of council, has been overseeing an organizational restructure that has, among other things, reduced and eliminated staff positions at the hall.

"(That) has allowed us to balance our books over the last couple of years and be in a position to make this wage increase," he said.

Furey explained this week that the increases are based on not just the Consumer Price Index (CPI) but also largely on the wage settlements in the Lower Mainland.

The CPI in B.C. from Dec. 2011 to Dec. 2012 was a 1.1 per cent increase; in Vancouver for the same time period it was a 1.3 per cent increase.

Over the past number of years, however, the CPI has fluctuated between zero and just under three per cent.

"As the agreement spans four years there is an expectation that it would continue to fluctuate in this manner," said Furey.

Whistler also compares itself to six municipalities in the Lower Mainland, including New Westminster, the District of Delta and Coquitlam.

The first two have made the same settlement and Coquitlam is in the process of ratification.

"I also looked at what has been the emerging pattern of the metro Vancouver municipalities," explained Furey. "For example, the city of Vancouver has settled for that, Port Moody has settled for that, Squamish has settled for that as well.

"To me, and what I've been informed of from talking to metro negotiators, this is the wage pattern that is being set in the Lower Mainland."

The wage agreement impacts all non-union staff that are governed by the Employee Handbook, a legal document outlining the terms of employment, last updated with a wage agreement in 2007.

That increase was based on contract negotiations with the unionized staff — CUPE Local 2010.

There are 25 municipal employees in CUPE at the waste-water treatment plant and utilities department. Whistler's firefighters are also unionized. Neither has a contract with the municipality.

Furey said: "We're still in active negotiations with CUPE and with fire and trying to work through those negotiations with them."

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