NEWS RELEASE – January 23rd, 2020
The term of the Collective Agreement between the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners and the Saint John Police Association ended Dec.31, 2019 with the last wage increase over a year ago.
Over the last 16 years each and every Collective Agreement was mutually negotiated and agreed to without the need for binding arbitration. In spite of this fact, the Mayor who is also a member of the Police Commission attempts to publicly blame our mutually agreed wage increases on binding arbitration.
The political actions of the Mayor and Council have undermined the collective bargaining process by putting forward a retrogressive “wage escalation” policy, refusing to utilize the full $22.8 million committed by the provincial government to avoid reductions in front line services including policing and arbitrarily cutting $1.175 million of the police budget starting in 2020.
The “wage escalation” policy has no labour relations foundation or usage in collective bargaining. Nowhere in Canada are municipal police wage rates set by property “assessment base growth”. There are good reasons why this is not found elsewhere in Canada.
Property assessment can be lowered at the whim of government. We experienced this in 2014 when the assessments of the 2 pulp and paper mills in Saint John were lowered by 49% and 50% respectively to where they are now paying less in municipal taxes than they were in 2013. We witnessed this again in 2017 when the assessment for the LNG operation was lowered by two thirds (from $ 300 million to only $98 million).
This has contributed to the Industry Assessment Growth from 2013 to 2019 declining in Saint John by -3.68% while it has increased in Moncton by +20.32% and Fredericton by +17.07%.
Another example of substandard tax assessments is the refinery, the largest in Canada, that is assessed at only $98.6 million. When compared to the next two largest in Alberta (Imperial and Suncor) the Saint John refinery sits on a bigger size property (316 hectares vs 300 hectares) and produces approximately the same number of barrels per day (320,000 vs 327,000); the Alberta refineries are
assessed for their property at $268 million and equipment/machinery at $2.6 billion. As we painfully know the local refinery has zero assessment on equipment and machinery.
This political manipulation results in the 2 Alberta refineries paying $26 million in municipal taxes while the largest refinery in Saint John only pays $2.6 million in municipal taxes!
The political manipulation of the heavy industry tax assessments are also evident when we compare the tax base of Saint John-Moncton and Fredericton. Ten years ago Saint John had the largest tax base in New Brunswick – now Saint John is third.
Moncton has $ 1.1 billion more taxable property and Fredericton $203 million more.
The totally unfair tax assessments on heavy industry are now causing cuts in services including policing with the arbitrary reduction of $ 1.175 million in the police budget.
The 2018 City of Saint John Funding Agreement with the provincial government committing up to $22.8 million over 3 years to “minimize impacts to front line services”, including police, is not being fully accessed by the Mayor and Council as agreed. Instead they are going ahead with the police cuts the money was put in place to avoid. Over $6 million of the allocated $22.8 million is not being utilized to avoid police service cuts.
Shockingly, this Council wants to use the remaining $6 plus million to eliminate the front line services and the positions despite having agreed with the provincial government to avoid such cuts.
This irresponsible decision by the Mayor and Council is in violation of subsection 4.2 (a) of the 2018 provincial Funding Agreement that states:
“The City agrees to minimize impacts on front line service levels until such time as a solution is implemented”.
As outlined, the solution is tax reform where heavy industry pays municipal taxes based on the national industry standards.
Unfortunately, all of the above has now undermined the collective bargaining process and our ability to negotiate a renewed collective agreement.
The negotiators for the Board of Police Commissioners have had their hands tied by arbitrary mandates and dictates from the Mayor and Council. With this they are unable to respect the uninterrupted wage history that officers in Saint John are not paid less than their counterparts in other New Brunswick cities
Our wage proposal attached was rejected by the Board negotiators due to their dictated mandates.
This retrogressive position has resulted in our application for a Conciliation Officer as per Section 36 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act.
For the first time since 2004, some 16 years, it is obvious to us that the dictates of this Mayor and Council will force the issue of wage parity to require the assistance of an independent binding arbitration board.
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020
“Whereas the Interest Arbitration Board Chaired by Innis Christie -Dean of Law – dated July 21,2004 between the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners and the Saint John Police Protective Association stated on page 15-“…seems obvious, that although Fredericton is the capital of New Brunswick, its policing issues are quite different. It is not as large as Saint John, does not have as much surrounding population, and it is not an industrial and port city. In my opinion Saint John should be the clear leader in New Brunswick police pay”
The Chief negotiator for the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners, James F. LeMesurier, reiterated these cited findings on the front page of the Telegraph Journal: therefore be it resolved:
The wage increases for members of the Saint John Police Association commencing January 1,2020 shall be those required to ensure they remain the “…clear leader in New Brunswick police pay”.
All other Articles in the present Collective Agreement shall remain as “Current Contract” in the renewed working agreement commencing January 1, 2020.
The Negotiation Committee representing all members of the Saint John Police Association.