New collective agreement for Winnipeg police hikes pay, cuts city’s share of pension contributions

Winnipeg city councillors approved a new collective agreement with police officers Thursday that takes some of the burden for pension funding off of the city. 

The agreement reduces the city’s share of pension contributions for Winnipeg Police Association members from 21.8 per cent to 20.2 per cent, and increases union member contributions from eight per cent to 9.6 per cent. 

Under former Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman, the City of Winnipeg tried in 2019 to unilaterally change its pension contributions, in an effort to save $12 million. That move was challenged, and an arbitrator ruled in favour of the union and reversed the changes.

Council’s unanimous Thursday vote is the final step in the approval process, as the police union has already ratified the agreement.

The contract “shows what is possible when two sides engage in an honest and respectful negotiation process,” Winnipeg Police Association president Cory Wiles said in an emailed statement.

The new agreement comes more than a year after the last one expired.

It includes annual wage increases of 3.1 per cent, retroactive to the beginning of 2022 and continuing to the end of 2025. 

The total cost for all increases over four years is estimated at $57.7 million.

Policing is one of the biggest expenses for the city — at $326 million, it accounts for nearly a quarter of all city spending on services in the 2023 budget.

Mayor Scott Gillingham, speaking to reporters during a council meeting break at city hall, called the new collective agreement a “first step” toward reducing the city’s police pension costs.

“It’s progress. There’s more to be done. I believe that we need to continue, over the coming years, to see the contribution levels more so even out.” 

Councillors also unanimously approved a tentative new collective agreement with the Winnipeg Police Senior Officers’ Association, which represents 38 senior police officers and is separate from the larger Winnipeg Police Association.

That agreement also reduces the city’s pension contributions to 20.18 per cent from 21.78 per cent and increases member contributions from eight per cent to 8.8 per cent in 2024, then 9.6 per cent in 2025. 

It also increases wages by an average of 3.1 per cent per year.

Total costs of that agreement are estimated at $1.7 million over four years.

Library security funding approved

Members of council also approved funding for security measures at the Millennium Library.

Funding includes $1 million for interim security measures at the downtown branch, increasing the number of security guards and community safety hosts, and hiring new temporary full-time staff to reopen the Community Connections service portal at its main entrance.

The city reinstated stricter security measures at the library, including metal detectors and bag searches, after a man was fatally stabbed inside the building on Dec. 11.

“I do believe the community host model is very important,” said Coun. John Orlikow, chair of the community services committee, before the vote on the funding motion.

“The way that we solve this problem is through people.… It won’t be through cages, it won’t be through even the metal detectors.”

The funding approved Thursday will cover costs until the end of this year. 

Future funding to continue the security measures — estimated at $2.4 million per year — will be considered as part of the 2024-27 multi-year budget process.

Councillors applaud outgoing clerk

Thursday’s council meeting also included a farewell — and two standing ovations from councillors and city staff — for a long-time public servant.

City clerk Marc Lemoine is retiring after 37 years as a City of Winnipeg employee. The clerk is one of only four city staff members who are appointed directly by council.

Lemoine has served as clerk since 2018. Prior to that, he served as deputy city clerk and the city’s senior election official.

Council approved the appointment of Carlos Gameiro as the new city clerk. He previously held the position of deputy city clerk.