Halifax police officers have been awarded a 10% pay bump over four years.
The last contract between Halifax Regional Municipality and the Halifax Regional Police Association, the union representing constables, sergeants, staff sergeants, and some civilian police employees, expired in March 2020. After negotiations for a new contract started in September 2020, the municipality and the union had some disagreements and agreed to arbitration.
That arbitration, before a three-member board chaired by Toronto arbitration lawyer William Kaplan, happened in December 2021, and the board released its decision on December 22.
Halifax Regional Police officers will receive two pay increases annually for the four years of the contract:
1.25% effective on April 1, 2020 and 1.25% increase effective October 1, 2020.
1.25% effective on April 1, 2021 and 1.25% increase effective October 1, 2021.
1.25% effective on April 1, 2022 and 1.25% increase effective October 1, 2022.
1.25% effective on April 1, 2023 and 1.25% increase effective October 1, 2023.
As the Halifax Examiner reported in September 2021, 56% of police employees are already paid more than $100,000, and police employees make up more than 40% of the city’s sunshine list.
The increase brings top salaries for officers to more than $110,000 for a constable, $130,000 for a sergeant, and $140,000 for a staff sergeant.
The retroactive increases in 2020 and 2021 mean the municipality will pay officers a lump sum. The total figure is likely to be millions.
It’s unclear whether these increases have been factored into the 2022-2023 operating budget proposal from Chief Dan Kinsella. That proposal would see a 2.3% increase to the police budget, equal to about $2 million. The Board of Police Commissioners voted this week to hold a public hearing before making a decision on the budget.
Coun. Lindell Smith, chair of the board, said he wasn’t aware of the new award.
“I didn’t know that the arbitration was done and what the outcome was,” Smith said in an interview Wednesday.
Smith said he doesn’t think the impact of the new contract has been incorporated into the 2022-2023 police budget, and he’ll be asking about it at the next police board meeting. He said he expects the added cost to be factored in when the chief presents the budget to council. But the award won’t change.
“Once the arbitrator makes their decision, there’s no appeal. There’s no, ‘We’re not going to do it,’” Smith said.
The new collective agreement has yet to be posted online, and there may be more negotiation to come on aspects other than the wages. The arbitration decision said the municipality and the union will create a working group to come to an agreement on one of those matters.
The Examiner has asked the municipality and the police questions about the new collective agreement and its effect on the budget. This article will be updated with the response.
Update, January 24:
Municipal spokesperson Klara Needler replied to the Examiner’s questions:
— Is the new collective agreement complete? When will it be posted online?
The municipality is still working on incorporating the decision into a revised Collective Agreement. Once revised, the Collective Agreement would then need to be ratified by Regional Council and signed by the parties before it would be publicly available.
— Given the retroactive increases effective April 1, 2020, Oct. 1, 2020, April 1, 2021, and Oct. 1, 2021, how much does HRP owe officers and other employees in lump-sum back pay? When will that money be paid? Where does that money come from?
A total of $5.3M is owed to HRPA officers for both Fiscal years of 2020/21 and 2021/22. A provision was accrued for in both Fiscal years 2020/21 and 2021/22 – amounts owed will be paid from that provision. The $5.3M includes $1.7M for year one, and $3.6M for year two.
— Is this new award factored into the 2022-2023 HRP budget? What’s the total impact of the award on the coming year’s budget, including the wage increases and the service pay?
A total of $5.7M was included in the proposed 2022/23 Fiscal Framework for the HRPA collective agreement increase and service pay changes.