Mayor Brian Bowman said the city won’t legally challenge an arbitrator’s order to cancel substantial police pension changes, a decision that created a $37-million hole in the city’s four-year budget.
“I’m not prepared to support a judicial review (of that decision). As well, I haven’t heard from any member of council that has expressed support for such a review,” said Bowman during a late Thursday media call.
The city attempted to unilaterally transform the pension plan, with changes that were set to take effect April 1. That included removing overtime as a pensionable police earning, increasing employee pension contributions and forcing officers to reach a minimum age of 55 before they’re entitled to full pensions.
About $14.7 million of the savings were earmarked to prevent an early budget proposal to lay off 34 police officers and 25 police cadets over four years, while $1.5 million per year would be dedicated to front-line policing.
Instead, Winnipeg police unions grieved the changes and an arbitrator ruled the city lacked the authority to impose them without a negotiated agreement.
The city is also expected to pay a penalty of about $600,000 for its actions.
The mayor said he’s “very disappointed” with the arbitrator’s decision. He’s now asked Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth to find savings to cover the $6-million hit to the 2020 budget year.
“A shortfall’s been created in the city’s operating budget that will need to be addressed,” said Bowman.
The mayor has repeatedly championed the pension changes as a way to ensure Winnipeg policing is financially sustainable.
Winnipeg Police Association President Moe Sabourin, whose union represents most of the affected officers, could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.