Sarnia to join “coordinated” police bargaining

Sarnia’s police services board will work with other boards in the region on a coordinated approach to contract negotiations.

The Ontario Association of Police Service Boards is asking municipal boards across the province to form a common front for coordinated bargaining. The Sarnia board had turned the idea down last year, but board member Dick Carpani urged the city get involved in the group which plans to set out priorities for local bargaining units to follow.

“This is one of the areas where the biggest expense occurs,” Carpani told police services board members recently. “The Ontario Association of Police Service Boards proposed this coordinated bargaining and it will be that all of the boards in the province will attempt to start with the same set of assumptions only on things that are major issues.”

Carpani, who has been involved in the education sector during his career, says it is a similar system used by the provincial government and school boards. And he thinks it is a good idea. Carpani says he’s seen the “local organizations being whipsawed by the provincial associations.

“It is the same sort of thing happening here; one police services board gets a salary increase and it tends to be that everybody lives by it.

“If we go in with the same basic items we want to see in the contract that sort of thing is less likely to happen.”

But the move doesn’t come without concerns. Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who chairs the board, wasn’t in favour of the idea.

“This lumps us in with the biggest departments,” says Bradley.

“My big fear is it is a step toward provincial bargaining,” says Bradley. “That could have a very negative impact on our budget and our salary budget.”

“This is being driven by the chairman of the Toronto Police Service and they’ve been driving up the costs for other departments.”

Carpani says boards are already being forced into higher salaries than they can afford through the current collective bargaining process. If the local boards and local police associations can’t agree, a provincial arbitrator is called in.

“The arbitrator gets to decide and part of his reasoning is what happens elsewhere,” says Carpani.

But Bradley says that hasn’t happened in Sarnia for a long time. “We’ve always had a really good relationship with our association who live in the community and understand the challenges of the community,” says Bradley.

“You lose your local control…right now we have huge freedom.”

– Heather Wright