Close to 30 WPS members file for retirement amidst pension problems: union

WINNIPEG — Nearly 30 members of the Winnipeg Police Service have filed for retirement according to the Winnipeg Police Association.

Union President Maurice Sabourin said the members put in their notice ahead of the Nov. 21 meeting at city hall, where council was deciding whether to amend the police pension plan changes from a Jan. 1 start date to an April 1 start. Council voted 9-7 to make the amendment.

The changes passed by council in November included the removal of overtime as a pensionable earning, an increase in officer contributions and alterations to early retirement provisions.

At the time, the union said it filed a grievance over the issue.

Officers and the union were back in council chambers Thursday, nearly a month later, as councillors met to vote on the bylaw surrounding last month’s amendment.

Speaking to reporters, Sabourin explained that nearly three dozen members have filed for retirement; however, he said there are up to 200 members that could still follow suit. 

“Even if you look at half of the number, that’s 100, and we’re just keeping our head above water with 100 members already down in complement in the last four years,” Sabourin said. “So you can imagine another 100 would be devastating for the police service and for the service that we provide to the citizens of Winnipeg.”

Sabourin said 163 members are eligible to leave without penalty. Members who have been with the force for 20 to 25 years could leave with minimum penalty, which he says is a big possibility, given if they stay past the April 1 implementation date, they could see a decrease in their pension because of the way the calculation could be done. 

“I can’t speak to the staffing levels. We don’t have any legislative ability to get into operations of the police service,” Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said.

Bowman said council made the amendment in response to timing concerns from the union.

“My primary focus and consideration is how do we make sure the resources are there to support law enforcement and other vital services that the city provides,” Bowman said. 

“We’re hearing from the union that [officers] are stretched very, very thin, and we’re also reading reports of voluntary special duties.”

Bowman also pointed at the $100,000 in community safety and crime prevention funding handed out Wednesday to help in reducing the demands on police. 

READ MORE: 23 community groups awarded funding for safety and crime prevention

“We need to look at how we use the resources and taxpayers dollars more efficiently to get better results, so the answer can’t always be more money. It has to be about how do we use the dollars that we’re entrusted to manage in a way that gets better results?”

Arbitration is set for mid-January, and Sabourin said they hope to have a decision within a month — although it could take up to 90 days. He said if the decision is not favourable, they will apply for a judicial review. 

–With files from CTV’s Jeff Keele