City must rein in its labour costs

When the salaries of the highest-paid individuals working for Victoria are listed each year, it routinely causes people to gasp.

When the salaries of the highest-paid individuals working for the City of Victoria are listed each year, it routinely causes many in the community to gasp.

Whether such reactions are a realization of the wage disparity between those who run the City and themselves, or simply a disdain for those who happen to make a handsome wage, the numbers always come as a shock when they appear in print.

The media don’t tend to ask those whose salaries are listed how they feel about having not just their income, but their annual raises publicized for all to see. In the public-sector work world, however, that goes with the territory.

But before we start grousing about the pay increases of those in charge at city hall – who are, by the way, generally paid in line with people doing similar jobs in similar-sized cities – we should remember that the City is doing little to hold the line on labour costs during this time of financial stress.

Union employees at the City earned annual raises of three per cent through the recession. And while their new contract reduced the annual hike to two per cent, management’s salary increases are tied to those of union members. Compare that to provincial government employees who have endured wage freezes for years.

With the City looking at cutting millions from its budget to keep property tax increases manageable, such continual wage hikes seem out of touch with reality.

So where does that leave the average taxpayer? Until those we elect to council show the courage and strength to stand up for the financial well-being of those who voted them in, things won’t change. Victoria property owners can expect ongoing increases to their tax bill.

Council members, who make far less than their senior staff, ultimately have the final say on the purse strings.

It’s time for them to take a serious look at reining in labour costs instead of axing valuable programs to balance their budget.