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Whistler council changes wage benchmark, salary stays flat

New remuneration policy keeps council wages static



Council will not be getting a $5,000 raise each in salaries to match its counterparts in the six benchmark cities used to set wages at the municipality.

Instead, it has thrown out the old, much-pilloried Lower Mainland city benchmarks used to determine its wages and chosen six new cities as the guidepost for Whistler council wages.

And so, rather than a raise, as proposed in June based on the old policy, council's pay remains flat.

"I think it sends out a very good message to those people that in fact the council and the mayor are acting responsibly in setting a tone for the community," said Councillor Tom Thomson.
It could mean the benchmark for staff wages is changing too, though that was not part of Tuesday's discussion at the first council meeting since the month-long summer break.

The municipal staff salary contract, which is a hot-button topic in the community, is up for renewal in 2012.

In an earlier interview with Pique Newsmagazine , Councillor Ralph Forsyth asked:
"Why can't we adopt the same policy (for staff) in the future?"

The new benchmark cities are based on daily population, annual budget and employee count.
Council's wages will be now based on the average of North Vancouver, Port Moody, White Rock, the district of Maple Ridge, Langley and Port Coquitlam.

"We think that's a better comparable," said Mayor Ken Melamed.

Based on the average of those cities, Whistler council is making more money - in the case of the mayor $10,000 more, and council members $1,300 more.

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler took issue with the change to council policy that states: "If RMOW Council salaries are higher than the average of those Municipalities, remuneration would not change for Mayor and Council as Council remuneration only ratchets up and may not go down."

He called that "loopy" and withheld his support for the policy change.

Denise Wood, human resources director at the municipality explained why the wages stay flat.

"It's just normal practice," she said. "When you look at the CPI (Consumer Price Index) annually, if the CPI is negative we don't decrease salaries. They remain the same."
The mayor added that the exercise wasn't intended to lower council's wages and he gets feedback in the community saying that councillors aren't paid enough money for what they do.

"I wish people would tell me I'm not getting paid enough," said Zeidler.
Forsyth chimed in: "You're not getting paid enough."

Previously Whistler's comparison cities were: North Vancouver, the district of North Vancouver, New Westminster, the corporation district of Delta, the district of West Vancouver and the City of Coquitlam. It is not clear how and why those cities were chosen.
Forsyth, who originally voted against the review of the council remuneration in June because he recalled how difficult it was to set the policy in the first place, said only time will tell if this new policy is good policy or not.

"I thought we had adopted good policy last time," he said.


Asphalt plant petition goes to court late November


Cheakamus Crossing residents hoping for an early fall resolution to the asphalt plant operating in the neighbourhood will have to wait a little longer.

Mayor Ken Melamed announced Tuesday night that the petition dates have been set for November 21-22 in the Supreme Court of B.C. That petition calls for the court to declare the plant operating in contravention of zoning, and ultimately order it to cease operations.

The plant has been operating throughout the summer despite a cease and desist order issued by council in May.

"(It's) hard to believe something as important as public health and quality of life takes from May to November," said No Asphalt Plant spokesperson Tim Koshul.

"Very sad in the meantime (that) small children, the elderly and people with health concern continue to be exposed to known toxic chemicals in the air we breath, especially in a community that brags to the world about our clean mountain air and healthy lifestyles."

The mayor also reiterated at the meeting that council and staff cannot force the plant to shut down until the petition is heard in court and falls in Whistler's favour.