‘Doesn’t hurt to ask’: Calgary requests wage rollbacks from city unions

The City of Calgary will ask unions representing city workers to consider wage rollbacks as a tradeoff for minimizing layoffs as a result of 2020 budget cuts.

Council voted 14-1 to make the request, with just Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra voting against.

Carra said during the debate over the motion he felt asking unions to re-open already negotiated contracts would be treading into areas that aren’t legal.

“I think we’ve been doing a tremendously good job of changing how we spend money as a corporation, finding efficiencies, and I think that should lead,” he said. 

The city solicitor said as it’s simply a request — not a directive — there’s no legal concern.

“It doesn’t hurt to ask. But we have to ask. It’s our responsibility as council,” said Coun. Ward Sutherland, one of five councillors who had put forward the motion, along with Councillors Jeff Davison, Sean Chu, Jeromy Farkas and Joe Magliocca.

The city asked unions last July to forego a negotiated 1.5 per cent wage increase for 2020 that represents a $31 million increase to the city’s operational budget. That request was rejected.

This request, which will ask bargaining units to consider a wage freeze or up to a five per cent reduction, would go out to unions representing city staff including police, firefighters, and other indoor and outdoor staff.

Council also voted to take a wage freeze or cut in solidarity.

The city already cut 223 city positions in July as one of the impacts of $60 million in budget cuts, as it deals with tough economic conditions and a property tax shift that has placed a high burden on businesses.

Council will be discussing an even larger shortfall during its budget deliberations later this month, as it contends with the impacts of the Oct. 24 provincial budget.