Taxpayers of Langley Township and Langley City, prepare yourselves for another assault on your wallets.
The first contract between a Lower Mainland city and the Canadian Union of Public Employees has been signed. As per usual union tactics, it has been negotiated in a city where union-friendly members have been elected to council, and where labour donations play a key role in municipal campaigns.
The City of New Westminster and CUPE local 387 have concluded a four-year agreement with a total of 6.75 per cent in wage increases over that period. While that sounds reasonable, keep in mind that CUPE locals across B.C. had much higher-than-average settlements in each year up to 2011, when the last contract expired.
As a result, municipal workers’ wages are significantly higher than most private-sector workers doing similar work. In addition, they enjoy much better pension plans and a number of other benefits that are absent from most other private-sector contracts.
Municipal taxes have been rising at significant rates since the worldwide recession hit in 2008, and the major factor has been the generous wage increases given to CUPE members. In most municipalities, managers automatically get similar wage increases as well. Labour costs are a significant factor in all municipal budgets.
Both Langley City and Langley Township have yet to conclude contracts with their CUPE locals, but expect wage increases on a similar scale. The standard practice is for CUPE to go to other municipalities and, making use of the domino effect, get similar contracts.
Thus taxes will go up by almost seven per cent in the coming three years (the contract began on Jan. 1). The tax boost will simply pay added labour costs. It will be very hard for either municipality to keep tax increases below four per cent annually, given many other priorities that each has.
No one begrudges decent wages for working people. However, there is something wrong when most private-sector workers settle for wage freezes year after year, and their public-sector counterparts enjoy steady raises. Given the growing pension inequalities between the two sectors, this latest wage increase simply adds insult to injury.
And it also means taxes will go up.