Whistler is no exception when it comes to high municipal wage increases. The 17.5 per cent raise RMOW employees and managers will have received by the end of 2011 is typical of what's happening across the province.
Mission agreed to a 19.4 per cent increase for all its employees in 2009.
Critics call these increases out of step with the current economic climate. This year's four per cent increase in Whistler is more than double the projected rate of inflation. While those within the governments claim they're necessary to maintain a motivated work force, others argue for belt tightening.
In the meantime higher levels of government are freezing or capping wage increases. The Province of British Columbia has imposed a "zero-zero" collective bargaining mandate for most workers in the public sector, which includes no increases in compensation, for two years beginning with the 2010 budget. The Government of Canada has imposed a 1.5 per cent limit on compensation for people working in the federal public sector.
Feeling the pressure, West Vancouver council agreed this week to give only a 1.1 per cent wage increase to employees for the 2011 budget year (see associated story). In light of the controversial increases, Pique asked a few people well versed in the issue to comment on what's happening across the province, and why.
Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of policy at the Business Council of British Columbia
"(There's an) anomaly of local government compensation increases that are dramatically higher than we're seeing at other levels of government, at a time when many taxpayers have gone through a recession and have seen their own net worth take a hit, due to real estate and housing markets, and other things. It is quite glaring and the lesson that comes out of it is local governments in B.C. tend to be taken to the cleaners by the unions, in my experience. They're out-bargained, out-negotiated frequently and they're all very reluctant to look at out-sourcing services and activities that could potentially be done at a lower cost in the private sector.
"There should be a much stronger focus at the municipal level, in my opinion, on delivering services at a lower level cost. It doesn't seem to matter who's in office in what municipality, the basic argument is 'No, we have to provide these services, the people want them, and we can't cut services and we can't cut staff at any level.' It's an odd approach to managing anything."
Ken Melamed, Mayor of Resort Municipality of Whistler