County reverses decision, raises non-union pay rates by 1.9 per cent

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Non-union County of Wellington employees will receive a 1.9 per cent pay increase beginning July 1, after county council reversed an earlier decision to freeze the workers’ pay at 2020 levels.

The decision to grant the increase came following an in-camera session during the Feb. 25 council meeting.

By making the 1.9% increase effective July 1, council in-effect provided a 0.95% increase overall for the year of 2021.

Unionized employees received a 1.9 per cent increase for the entire year.

The original decision to hold the line on wages for non-union employees, and also county councillors, was made on Sept. 24.

At the time, several councillors questioned raising staff wages at a time when many county residents were feeling adverse financial impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the Sept. 24 meeting, a motion to provide a 1.9 per cent increase for non-union employees was defeated in a recorded vote. Only Warden Kelly Linton and councillors George Bridge and Gregg Davidson voted in favour of the increase.

A motion to discuss “labour relations or employee negotiations” among several other items during an in-camera session on Feb. 25 was questioned by councillor Jeff Duncan. However, a motion to proceed in-camera was approved.

Following the meeting, Duncan told the Advertiser in an email he felt the move to go in camera was “not in the spirit of how these decisions have historically been made and especially being a reconsideration or continuation of the open discussions we just did in September for the exact same issue.”

Following the in-camera session, council approved adjusting the non-union compensation grid by 1.9%, effective July 1, 2021, resulting in a 0.95% wage increase for 2021.

The vote following the in-camera session was not recorded. However two-thirds of councillors were required to vote in favour in order to pass a motion to reconsider the earlier decision.

Councillor Chris White had declared a pecuniary interest, as his daughter works for the county, and did not participate in the closed session or the vote.

A staff report from county human resources director Susan Farrelley was made public following the meeting.

The report states that since the September meeting, more information has been received “about our municipal comparator group’s decisions for their own economic adjustments for 2021 as well as general municipal averages.”

Of the 10 municipalities in the comparators group, only the City of Guelph had also implemented a pay 2021 pay freeze for non-union employees. While one municipality indicated any increase was yet to be determined, the rest provided increases ranging from one to two per cent.

Farrelly’s report noted the annual average for the CPI for the full year has also become available, and the county’s financial situation for 2021 in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic has become clearer.

“Therefore, more information is being brought forward in relation to the request for a 2021 economic adjustment for County of Wellington’s non-union employees,” the report states.

There are approximately 150 county employees (16%) who are members of CUPE Local 973, representing full-time social services employees.

There are approximately 800 County employees (84%) who are non-union.

“This is in contrast to the City of Guelph, whereby approximately 23% of their employees are non-union and 77% are unionized between various groups,” the report notes.

“The County of Wellington non-union group includes all of our hard-working employees at Wellington Terrace, who continue to work tirelessly at all times, and during this particularly challenging time of the pandemic,” the report states.

“Other non-union employees have continued to be redeployed or volunteer to help during this time not only at Wellington Terrace with screening, cleaning and resident support efforts, but also with Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph (WDG) Public Health in their vaccination efforts for our community.

“Their generosity and commitment to the County of Wellington is boundless and we appreciate their efforts every day of the year, and especially during this unprecedented time in history of the COVID-19 global pandemic.”

A provision of $400,000 was included in the 2021 county budget to implement any potential changes to the grid as part of the Non-Union Compensation Study, the report notes.

Rather than implement changes to the grid based on a study, Farrelly explained this provision could be used to cover the cost of the recommended increase to the non-union compensation grid as of July 1.

“The amount would be sufficient to cover the 0.95% variance without adjustment to the budget,” she stated.

The report also points out none of the county’s member municipalities reported “unusual property tax delinquency” in their outstanding accounts to the mayor’s roundtable on Jan. 18.

“Similarly, no issues have been raised through the Wellington County Treasurer’s group meetings throughout 2020.”