One group of employees that escaped the B.C. government’s caps on pay increases is the 155 provincial court judges.
The judges’ association has won a court challenge of a 1.5 per cent raise approved by the B.C. government for the fiscal year ended in March 2014. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the government’s appeal of an earlier decision to make the raise 4.9 per cent, plus an increase of the judges’ pension accrual rate from three to 3.5 per cent.
The cost of the retroactive raise is estimated at $2.67 million for that year alone. It remains to be seen if the judges will challenge the one per cent increase approved for 2014-15, which brought their salaries to $236,950.
“This will have an impact on our fiscal plan,” B.C. Justice Minister Suzanne Anton told reporters. “And as you know government has been in an environment of balancing the budget, and part of our philosophy on that is that provincial court judges’ salaries should generally fit into the same pattern that public service salaries fit into.”
Starting in 2013, the province negotiated five-year contracts with health care, social services and other unions with raises between one and 1.5 per cent per year. Finance Minister Mike de Jong introduced the concept of “growth sharing” to achieve longer labour settlements, with additional raises paid in years when growth of the provincial economy exceeds independent forecasts.
The judges’ association lost its initial challenge of the 2013-14 raise, when B.C. Supreme Court Justice John Savage noted provincial court judges’ salaries had risen 45 per cent in a decade, from $161,250 per year in 2004 to $234,600 in 2013.