THUNDER BAY – Some senior staff with the City of Thunder Bay will see raises as high as 12 per cent in 2022 after city council approved a pay band adjustment, though details remain shielded from the public.
The pay band adjustment of up to 8 per cent passed by council Monday comes on top of a general 4 per cent increase council approved for non-unionized employees earlier this year.
That means the 319 staff in the management and non-union group will see increases of between 4 and 12 per cent this year.
The 4 per cent general increase for that group will cost the city over $1.1 million this year. The city has refused to disclose how much more the pay band adjustment will cost.
A push by Coun. Mark Bentz to review the adjustment, rather than approve it, squeaked by on a 4-3 vote in May, with several councillors absent.
He found less support Monday when the issue returned to council, with only Coun. Peng You joining him in opposition.
Bentz had pushed for a phased-in approach, saying he doesn’t object to the new levels of pay, only the timing and the optics.
Approving a double-digit increase in a single year for management is likely to offend and alienate community members who are struggling, he said.
“Coming out of the pandemic, with all the financial suffering we’ve encountered, all the uncertainty with inflation… I just don’t think the 12 per cent is going to be well-received by the community,” he said. “It wasn’t well-received by me, and I understand the reasoning behind it.”
Details of the pay band adjustment have been discussed only in private by council. City manager Norm Gale declined an interview request for this story, saying administration would not speak publicly on the issue until council's vote is ratified on June 27.
Gale has previously said the adjustment is intended to improve recruitment and retention by offering more competitive pay.
It will help the city achieve a policy that aims to keep salaries for non-union staff exactly in the middle of rates paid by a group of comparable Ontario municipalities, using the annual Mercer's survey.
The city lagged behind that benchmark by 9.1 per cent in 2021, staff have said.
Bentz has previously raised concerns over the fact the city's list of comparator cities includes several Southern Ontario municipalities. The city did not respond to a TBnewswatch request to share that list.
The at-large councillor said he was surprised to find most of his colleagues “quite steadfast” in supporting administration’s recommendation during closed-door discussions Monday.
However, he suggested he may launch a new push for an alternate solution when the vote returns to council for ratification.
Couns. Fraser, Giertuga, Johnson, McKinnon, Oliver, and Mayor Mauro voted in favour of the salary band adjustment. Couns. Bentz and You voted against.
Coun. Andrew Foulds declared a conflict as one of his children is a non-unionized city employee.