WINNIPEG – It appears that negotiations are not going well between the city and the police union on a new collective bargaining deal.
On The News on CJOB Monday, Mayor Brian Bowman had words for the police union.
“We’re right now in the middle of collective bargaining with a number of our units, one of which we need back at the table. We’ve been advised that the police union has walked away. We need them back at the table. That’s how collective bargaining works.”
Now the union is firing back, calling the mayor’s words misleading.
“The mayor has, whether it’s through misinformation or he’s intentionally trying to mislead the citizens of Winnipeg, we never walked away from the table. The city never really provided a fair and reasonable offer,” said WPA President Moe Sabourin. “Unfortunately, the City, in a process which has been, in our view, micromanaged from Mayor Bowman’s office, is not willing to bargain in a meaningful way.”
The union has been without an agreement since December and have now filed for arbitration to try and get a deal done. The city is looking to increase the police budget but not at the rate that the union wants.
“We’ve made it very clear that we’re still willing to sit down but I think at this point the city isn’t interested in those meaningful conversations,” Sabourin stated. “We’ve shared with them what the replication principles have been in the past and we need to maintain those. They’re not outrageous, but the numbers we’ve shared with the city, they believe they are not fair or reasonable.”
Going to arbitration generally produced better results for unions, but Sabourin insists that’s not always the case.
“A lot of people are of the belief that arbitration favours the unions and that’s not necessarily the case. An arbitrator’s duties are to decide where the parties would have come to if they had been left to their own divide. It’s based on what the parties have done in the past and evidence presented on both sides.”
Much of the issue revolves around wages: Sabourin says they want to keep within 1-2 per cent of Calgary and Edmonton, but says right now they lag behind by five per cent.
The City of Winnipeg has issued a response to Sabourin’s comments, attributed to Michael Jack, Chief Corporate Services Officer:
“The City of Winnipeg recognizes the important role that the Winnipeg Police Service plays in the safety and security of our City and its residents, but we are also aware of the financial burden that labour costs are placing on Winnipeg taxpayers.
We have been actively working with the Winnipeg Police Association (WPA) in collective bargaining. The City of Winnipeg presented its last financial offer which was rejected by the WPA, and the WPA subsequently applied for interest arbitration. We feel we have put a fair offer forward based on our current fiscal situation, however negotiations have come to an impasse.
The City of Winnipeg is ready and willing to get back to negotiations with the WPA and is committed to finding a fair solution for all parties involved, however the City also needs to control the costs of labour, and the historic increases are no longer sustainable.”