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Workers get 3% wage increase

Even in the current economic climate, Woolwich’s outside workers will receive pay increases of three per cent annually over the next three years, as the township this week reached a new collective bargaining agreement with 19 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees local 1542.

The contract, effective Jan. 1, replaces the previous three-year deal that expired Dec. 31. For this year, the deal brings the average wage to $22.50.

Formally, the new agreement gives workers a 1.5-per-cent wage increase each year. A further “market adjustment” of 1.31 to 1.56 per cent will be applied annually to each worker’s pay, effectively making the rate approximately three per cent.

The market adjustment was negotiated to bring employees’ wages in line with what is being paid in comparable municipalities, explained chief administrative officer David Brenneman.

Aware that the increases are out of line with private-sector raises, he said the township is forced to negotiate based on what other municipalities have settled on recently, noting the Woolwich deal is very similar to what Wellesley Township gave its workers last year.

“The reality of the situation is that we’re not comparing public to private, but we’re negotiating in a climate where we’re compared to other municipalities. The union is looking for parity among neighbours.”

For 2010, the wage increase will add another $27,800 to the budget, said director of finance Richard Petherick.

In recent years, the raises agreed on with the union have also applied to non-unionized office staff. This year’s decision will be part of upcoming budget deliberations. In preliminary discussions, council set a four-per-cent target for this year’s tax increase, including a two-per-cent special levy for capital building expenses. With its new facilities almost complete, this will be the final year for that levy.

Negotiations got underway Nov. 18 and wrapped up Dec. 7, involving five days of meetings.

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