Edmonton mayor, councillors’ salaries in spotlight on eve of CSU 52 strike

As a strike looms for the City of Edmonton, the salary of councillors and the mayor is being brought into question by the union, as they receive a pay raise for the second year in a row.

The mayor of Edmonton is among the highest paid mayors in the country, making more than Premier Danielle Smith.

City Manager Andre Corbould says council doesn’t set its own salaries – a committee does – and there hasn’t been any considerations to freeze their wage.

“Council works a lot and works a lot of hours, and I don’t feel it’s my place to make that recommendation, and I think they earn a fair wage for the hours they put in,” Corbould said.

The city says if it were to accept the union’s proposal, it would result in an additional property tax increase of 2.5 per cent this year. That’s in addition to the 6.6 per cent increase already approved by council in November.

And as they prepare to negotiate with other unions, if they gave similar increases, the tax impact would be closer to nine per cent.

“We don’t feel this additional impact is appropriate given the current financial restraints,” said Corbould.

“For a young person like me, it definitely could affect in the future for me trying to buy a home,” one Edmontonian told CityNews. “I know there are family members of mine who couldn’t buy a home for a long time, so this increase will make it harder for future generations too.”

In a letter, city council called its existing offer of a 7.25 per cent wage increase over five years “fair and equitable” for both taxpayers and the more than 5,000 civic and library employees planning to strike Thursday morning.

“The offer presented by the city strives to balance the requests of CSU 52 members for fair compensation and a more flexible work environment with the current fiscal pressures faced by the city and Edmontonians. Our city budget has been impacted by those same high utility costs, inflation, and other cost pressures.”

But CSU 52 feels the City of Edmonton could make up the difference in other ways, like cutting the unessentials.

A group representing all City of Edmonton unionized employees, the Coalition of Edmonton Civic Unions (CECU), is calling the statement from city council a scare tactic.

“Our Coalition is deeply disappointed that negotiations have come to this, but we are not surprised,” CECU wrote in a statement. “This is the approach that the City took with each Union in the last round of negotiations and it is the same approach they take with day-to-day business.

“City Council should be questioning why negotiations have stretched so long and demanding to know what City Administration has done to try and reach a deal. We demand that City Council listen to the thousands of City employees who are angry enough to reject the ‘best and final offer’ of this Administration and walk a picket line.

“Ultimately, we demand that City Council get a second opinion on why they find themselves in this position and what they can do to stop escalating it.”

Matt Jones, Alberta’s minister of jobs, says the province is watching the strike very closely and will step in only if needed.

“This is very much a part of the collective bargaining process. It tends to work,” Jones said.

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