Perhaps a better question would be, how much will it cost us and are we about to be “SAMMED” AGAIN?
During the 2010 civic election the Winnipeg Police Association endorsed Mayor Sam Katz. The announcement that the WPA was endorsing the Mayor coincidentally came on the same day that the Mayor announced he was adding 58 additional police and 19 staff positions to the Police Service complement. The timing was no doubt a coincidence (not) but it’s one of those coincidences that voters have come to expect when an incumbent is running for reelection.
Whenever unions support politicians there is some expectation that there will be a return on their investment. Sometimes it is favourable legislation, sometimes it is the creation of more positions which result in a direct benefit, in this case an increase in union dues (77 positions translates into approximately $40,000.00 in union dues – not exactly chump change). In Canada one does not necessarily think about politicians meeting in hotel rooms and receiving brown paper envelopes stuffed with cash (e.g. Karlheinz Schreiber and Brian Mulroney) as a common occurrence. Usually, at least in the cases that come to public attention it is less brazen. The fact remains that when politicians make deals in return for support in the form of an endorsement there is usually some form of quid pro quo. Something is given, something is received. Politics is not a zero sum game and politicians and their supporters are not totally altruistic. The unfortunate thing is that the residual losses required to offset the gains realized by the players (in this case the mayor and the union) are absorbed by the public.
The Winnipeg Police Association already received what many observers consider to be, at the very least, a “down payment” in return for their support – that being the addition of 77 dues paying union positions.
Further, the association has been advocating for years, without success, to amend the Winnipeg Police Regulations to allow for discipline records to be expunged. A few months ago the association received what could be viewed as a ‘second payment’. This time it was in the form of favourable legislation resulting in a change to the police regulations as it related to the expunging of discipline records.
Will the Winnipeg Police Association be receiving anything else?
They just might. In comments to the media the mayor said that police in Winnipeg are under paid and is quoted as saying, “I can guarantee none of us would do that job for what they get paid”. Well, perhaps the mayor wouldn’t (he has never struck me as police officer material), but I think many others would, as illustrated by the number of applicants for police positions. That comment coming from the lips of the mayor during a year when the City will be negotiating a contract with the Winnipeg Police Association could be worth a few bucks to the association.
With negotiations now at a deadlock, arbitration is just around the corner. I’m willing to wager (only with the approval of the Manitoba Lotteries Commission of course) that the Association’s lawyers will be using the mayor’s quote as the centerpiece in their attempt to justify a larger pay increase.
If that scenario were to play out and the arbitrator were to be persuaded to up the award by, say, a quarter to a half per cent, what would that cost taxpayers? Answer: in the range of $375,000.00 to $750,000.00, and that would just be in the first year. Wage awards, because they are cumulative, are gifts that keep on giving.
That begs the question: was the mayor’s comment a naive shot from the hip, a mere slip of the lip or did we just get SAMMED again?