SJPA Media Release: Response to Complaint

News Release March 7th, 2020

This morning we were notified by members of the media that the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners has filed a complaint with the province of New Brunswick alleging that we “failed to negotiate in good faith and make reasonable effort to conclude a collective agreement”.

We are disappointed that this information was not shared with us as we were in contact with both management and the chief negotiator on behalf of Police Commission late yesterday afternoon regarding other matters and this was not mentioned.

Experienced chief negotiator of the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners James LeMesurier in the fall of 2019 provided an offer to our labour representative Bob Davidson. One year extension of the current collective agreement with wage parity with Fredericton police and our negotiating committee agreed to this despite approximately 10 years ago we were $3300 dollars more.

On December 16 , 2019, in a meeting with the Chief Negotiator as well as Director of
Business Development and Corporate Effectiveness of the Saint John Police Force, Bob Davidson and I were notified that this proposal was rejected by the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners.

With the arbitrary wage escalation policy that is tied to assessment based growth of the City of Saint John it is impossible to conduct negotiations on wages. Nowhere in the country are wages for police officers tied to growth assessments.

As we all know assessments for heavy industry has been lowered at the whim of the provincial government.

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 including Fredericton.

The Interest Arbitration Board decision of July 21, 2004 (Chaired by Innis Christie, Dean of Law) 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 wage escalation policy would result in the police officers in Saint John being paid less than the police officers in Fredericton.

The Saint John Police Association has always been willing to negotiate as was the case in when our last Collective Agreement was signed we met 30 plus times. That same level of cooperation does not exist today because of political interference.

On January 22nd 2020, our first scheduled day of negotiations we submitted our proposal which was the same as which had been offered to us from the Chief Negotiator of the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners.

Their negotiation team opened with a series of guiding principles one of which was health and wellness and another being able to defend the collective agreement to the media.
What followed with their proposal was 30 plus items most of which we consider concessions and several that were left “To be Determined”.

On this date the Association requested to continue meeting into the afternoon and were told the other side was unavailable. One of the responses from the chief negotiator was “If it has to go to another form then so be it”.

Prior to this meeting the association was sent a notice that if the meeting concluded before noon they were to return to scheduled duties. While we agree with the content of this notice we believe by sending it they had no intention of spending anytime negotiating with us.

On February 27th 2020 we met with the provincial appointed conciliation officer that we had applied for. We explained our side and the restrictions of the wage escalation policy. Their negotiation team did not provide any other proposal. It should be noted that we requested information in the Jan 22nd 2020, meeting which was not been provided as well as their incomplete proposal still has several TDB (To be determined) within.

Unfortunately, all of the above has now undermined the collective bargaining process and our ability to negotiate a renewed collective agreement.
It is our opinion that the employers negotiating committee have provided an offer to us which is filled with employee concessions and completely undermines the wellness and safety of our officers. Our negotiation team has unanimously rejected their offer.

It is interesting to note that the mayor of Saint John is paid $19,180 more than the mayor in Fredericton, and the city manager in Saint John is paid $210,000 but according to Fredericton City website Fredericton City Manager is paid $171,175 but they want to pay our police officers less than those in Fredericton.

It has been 16 years since we required an interest arbitration board decision to resolve a settlement and it is very disappointing we will now require a third party award from an independent arbitration board to determine the collective agreement.

On March 3 , 2020 we requested the Minister of Post-Secondary, Training and Labour
convene an arbitration board as per section 80 (1) (b) of the Industrial Relations Act and notified the employer of this request.

We hope that Minister Holder does not allow this complaint to interfere with our request.

Duane Squires

Saint John Police Association