The Oak Bay Police Board has twice rejected an officer’s desire to work past the age of 60.
The police board denied the officer’s request to work beyond age 60 because of a contractual mandatory age of retirement.
After the officer filed a grievance, the Oak Bay police union took the issue back to the department, which again put it before the police board.
For a second time, the board, which acts as the employer, denied the officer’s request.
“The board’s position on retirement at age 60 is in keeping with the negotiated terms of the collective agreement,” Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen, a board member, said in an email.
Oak Bay Police Chief Andrew Brinton said he can’t speak to specifics because of privacy concerns, but confirmed a personnel matter related to retirement as set out in the collective agreement was discussed by the police board at in-camera meetings April through June.
The mandatory age of retirement was upheld by the department and board, said Brinton.
There have been no retirements at the department since last summer, he said.
“The board simply felt it is part of the collective agreement and it would be inappropriate to step away from it,” said Brinton.
He said the board’s decision was based in part on a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision last year related to a Vancouver firefighter who claimed age discrimination.
“That’s confirmed in the minds of many there is a contractual arrangement that all parties have agreed to going into their employment,” said Brinton.
On June 26, the Human Rights Tribunal dismissed an age discrimination complaint by John Yaremy, a firefighter employed by the City of Vancouver and a member of the Vancouver Fire Fighters’ Union, Local 18.
Yaremy lost his job when he turned 60. The collective agreement between the City of Vancouver and the union requires all firefighters regardless of classification, gender, or department of service to retire at age 60.
The city and union said that the actuarially based supplemental pension system that confirmed the early retirement of firefighters at age 60 dates to arrangements dating to the early 1900s.
Stephanie Gutierrez, a labour and human rights lawyer in Vancouver, said there have been challenges of the retirement at 60 requirement, but they have been unsuccessful. “Essentially under our human rights legislation, which is not too dissimilar from human rights legislation across the country, we have a provision that a person must not discriminate in employment on various grounds including age, except that prohibition does not apply with age and other grounds for the operation of bona fide retirement, superannuation or pension plan or bona fide employee insurance plan,” Gutierrez said.
B.C. Police Association president Tom Stamatakis said most police officers with 25 to 30 years on the job are ready to retire. “Most retire before age 60,” said Stamatakis. “Most benefits and pension plans are structured around age 60.”
Stamatakis points to the increased costs to benefits and pension plan premiums that come with people working longer and the physical toll that the job itself and shift work takes. “You are allowed to discriminate based on age where there is a bona fide employment requirement — for a firefighter, paramedic and police officer,” said Stamatakis.
He said firefighters have challenged the collective agreement but he’s not aware of police officers doing so.
In Victoria, at least one officer wanted to work beyond age 60 and an exception was made. Victoria police spokesman Const. Matt Rutherford said the retirement age for Victoria police officers is subject to their collective agreement, arrived at through negotiations between the Victoria Police Department and the Victoria police union. That negotiated retirement age is 60.
However, “the department and the police union may agree on exceptions from time to time,” said Rutherford.
“There are many factors that are considered during these types of discussions,” said Rutherford. “At present, the department has one officer over the age of 60.” Details are confidential, said Rutherford.
Brinton said he couldn’t talk about what other departments do around the issue of mandatory age retirements. “That’s up to each police board how they want to manage it,” said Brinton. “In the case of Oak Bay all I can say is they chose to stay in line with the collective agreement and there have been recent decisions in the province to support that.”