Opposition parties unanimously denounce city workers’ salary increases

Deputy Mayor Boyer defends 1.2 per cent hike as necessary to retain employees

Laval city council’s opposition members, who are often divided along party lines, were unanimous during last week’s July city council meeting in condemning the Mouvement lavallois administration for a measure that will raise city employees’ salaries by 1.2 per cent, so they won’t be tempted away by the prospect of better-paying jobs.

‘Unacceptable,’ said Revelakis

Leading off the criticism was Action Laval city councillor for Chomedey Aglaia Revelakis. “I believe it is important that the employees of the City of Laval get paid equitably,” she said, while noting though that she didn’t understand why the proposed salary increase is higher than the indexed inflation rate.

As well, she wondered why the salaries are being raised only a few months before voters in Laval go to the polls for city-wide elections, and why the increase is being made retroactive to 2019.

While pointing out that many Laval residents have lost their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic early last year, that businesses have closed and employers are finding it difficult to find workers, she said, “Yet in Laval we are raising raising salaries, which is unacceptable.”

‘Lacking respect,’ says De Cotis

Action Laval city councillor for Saint-Bruno David De Cotis said he fully agreed with Revelakis as well as AL councillors Paolo Galati and Isabella Tassoni. “I have nothing against the employees of the City of Laval who are doing excellent work,” he said. “It’s a question of principle and respect towards the citizens of Laval.

“The last two years have been difficult for our citizens,” he noted. “Granting salary increases that are retroactive, without a strong mandate to do it, shows a flagrant lack of respect for the electoral process that is almost upon us.

“My colleagues Mrs. Revelakis, Mr. Galati, Mrs. Tassoni, Mr. Poissant and Mr. Trottier are all correct: We should let the people decide,” said De Cotis. “In any case, madam president, the increases are retroactive. So, we should let a new administration decide how to deal with these increases.”

‘Perks’ concern Trottier

Parti Laval city councillor for Fabreville Claude Larochelle said he and party leader Michel Trottier had no problem with a mandated salary adjustment, but were more concerned with perks also included in the deal. These included five additional vacation days, and the reduction (from eight years to one year) in the amount of time an employee must be on staff to be eligible for five weeks vacation annually.

“After such a challenging year for society as a whole, this is a little indecent,” Larochelle said, while maintaining that according to recent ranking of municipalities across Quebec, the City of Laval was already in second place for the scale of salaries paid overall to its work force.

A need to retain workers

Mouvement lavallois city councillor for Sainte-Dorothée Ray Khalil, who is responsible for public works dossiers on the executive-committee, justified the proposed perks and salary increases on the basis that the city needs to take the means to hold onto good employees.

‘Granting salary increases that are retroactive, without a strong mandate to do it, shows a flagrant lack of respect for the electoral process that is almost upon us,’ said Action city councillor David De Cotis

“The experience in all public administrations and companies is that you have to offer benefits in order to attract workers,” he said. “While, yes, there are some people who’ve recently been through difficulties, in certain sectors the difficulty has not been finding a job, but rather to not lose employees. And often within our own operations, that is the problem we are facing and the problem for which we must take action.”

Deputy Mayor Stéphane Boyer denied the administration was moving forward with the salary increases for electoral reasons, insisting instead that they were showing courage and transparency. “I think that what we are doing today is in complete transparency,” he said.

Boyer justifies increase

“We have adopted new collective agreements for the whole of our work force, as well as for our managers and other senior directors. They have working conditions and they have a right to see that we revise them. They haven’t been revised in a while and we are bringing them up to date.”

According to Boyer, prior to 2014 the average City of Laval employee salary increase was 3.1 per cent.

The latest hike, he added, amounts to 1.2 per cent. As well, he maintained that a HEC Montréal study ranked the cities of Terrebonne, Montreal, Gatineau, Québec, Blainville and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu as having senior managers who earn higher salaries than those paid by the City of Laval.