City of Saskatoon employees will feel the pinch of an economy that’s taking longer than expected to recover

The City of Saskatoon’s largest Union’s new contract, which expires at the end of the year, includes retroactive raises of 0.5% last year and 1.5% in July

City council approved a two-year contract on Tuesday with substantially lower raises than those in the previous four-year deal for the city’s largest union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 59.

The collective agreement marks the second negotiated by the city since all but one expired at the end of 2016. The contract, which expires at the end of the year, includes retroactive raises of 0.5% last year and 1.5% in July.

The two per cent bump over two years is less than any of the single-year increases in the previous contract, which included annual raises of 2.5%, 2.2%, 2.65% and 2.65%. CUPE Local 59 represents about 1,500 city workers.

The deal was reached Sept. 13 and ratified by union members on Sept. 20. The lower increases should have been expected after the provincial Saskatchewan Party government slashed grants-in-lieu to municipalities in its March 2017 budget. Cities and towns across the province, including Saskatoon, were forced to revamp their budgets to find savings in light of the reduced provincial revenue.

The province restored some of that revenue in its budget earlier this year. The salary increases and term mirror that of the contract with CUPE Local 859, which represents outdoor city workers, that was settled in March.

That leaves six other union contracts outstanding, including those representing firefighters, police and transit workers.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 615 settled a four-year contract dispute at the end of 2016 that included a month-long lockout of workers in 2014. That contract expired in March 2017.

Saskatoon’s economic growth, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), is projected to be 2.2% this year, about half of last year’s 4.1% growth, according to the Conference Board of Canada. Last year’s growth followed two years of minor GDP contractions.

PHIL TANK, SASKATOON STARPHOENIX
Updated: September 27, 2018
ptank@postmedia.com