City of Winnipeg won’t appeal arbitrator’s decision in pension battle with police union: Mayor

Winnipeg’s mayor says the city will not appeal an arbitrator’s decision that found the city did not have the right to unilaterally modify terms of the Winnipeg Police Service’s pension plan.

In November, city council approved changes to the plan that would have seen overtime cut from officers’ pensionable earnings and their contributions jump from eight per cent to 11.5 per cent.

Meanwhile, city contributions to the plan would have fallen from 18.5 per cent to 11.5 per cent.

The Winnipeg Police Association filed a grievance with the city and took the matter to arbitration, and late last month the arbitrator ruled in favour of the police union.

The WPA was awarded $40,000 in damages and each member was awarded $400 in the decision.

On Thursday, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said the city will not appeal the decision.

“I can confirm today that I am not prepared to support a judicial review, as well I haven’t heard from any member of council that has expressed support for such a review,” said Bowman.

“While the last collective-bargaining agreement did in fact bend the cost curve with the longest, most sustainable negotiated agreement in nearly 20 years, it was only a part of what was needed to truly get the costs of policing on a much more sustainable footing.”

Bowman said Thursday the city had hoped the reforms would save roughly $37 million over the next four years, and now council will need to find a way to make up the difference.

He said the shortfall will take $6 million out of the city’s operating budget this year.

Bowman said he’s spoken to WPS Chief Danny Smyth to ask the force to try to absorb some of the costs.

“The chief has agreed to do his best,” said Bowman, who added he plans on talking with WPA president Mo Sabourin about the matter next week.

City staff will now get to work with the WPS and the police board on a new multi-year funding formula for the service, he added.

Bowman said at $304 million, policing takes up 27 per cent of the city’s 2020 operating budget.

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