Saanich police officers get raises as union, police board reach a deal

Saanich police officers are getting a pay hike, which follows a trend of rising police salaries across the country.

The Saanich Police Association and the Saanich Police Board negotiated a 3.5 per cent wage increase for 2016 and 2.5 per cent each year for 2017 and 2018.

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The wage hikes will be retroactive. Saanich police officers have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2015.

That means a first-year constable’s salary in 2018 will be $70,154, up from $64,516 in 2015.

A five-year first-class constable will earn $100,219 in 2018, up from $92,165. And a 20-year constable will make $115,253, up from $105,990 in 2015.

In a joint statement, the union and the police board said the increases are consistent with agreements reached by most other municipal police departments in B.C., including Victoria and Central Saanich.

The Vancouver Police Union went to arbitration in 2016, negotiating a three-year increase that set a standard for other municipal police departments.

“The wage increases, they kind of roll across the country,” said Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell, who is also the chairman of the Saanich Police Board.

He said when going into negotiations, the police board looks at collective agreements that have been signed in other jurisdictions.

“We have to face the reality of these other agreements that have been signed at these rates and then decide, ‘Are we going to try and challenge this at the cost of arbitration or are we going to settle with the union at a rate that has been settled elsewhere?’ ” Atwell said.

Const. Paul Douglas, president of the Saanich Police Association, said “the police are not saying we’re underpaid.”

“We’re not demanding high wages. We’re just saying let’s just stay with the norm so we can attract quality people and keep the quality of policing for our residents to a high standard,” Douglas said.

Some of the language in the contract has also been changed to be more inclusive, Douglas said. For example, language around spousal benefits has changed to include same-sex couples and the terms “he” and “she” have been changed to gender-neutral terms.

The language around psychological benefits has been changed to make it easier for police officers to get counselling after a traumatic incident, Douglas said. “Members see some pretty horrific things,” and now officers can receive counselling more frequently.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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