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Deal gives city employees 8.5 per cent over four years

After an 18-month delay, most city employees have a new contract. That delay was unnecessary and unacceptable, said Coun. Doug Graham on Monday.

After an 18-month delay, most city employees have a new contract.

That delay was unnecessary and unacceptable, said Coun. Doug Graham on Monday.

“It’s not the negotiating committee’s fault in any event because their hands were tied both by legal opinions and decisions made by this council that were wrong, that were based on bad advice that we received by city administration,” he said.

“I think that somebody has to be held accountable and I know the only person that reports to council is the city manager.”

That last remark angered Mayor Bev Buckway, prompting her to slam her gavel.

“Councillor Graham, you are out of order,” she said, hitting it again.

And the sparks started to fly.

Councillors are muzzled and there’s little accountability for city staffers, said Graham.

Politicians must be respectful of the workplace policy and code of conduct that prohibits personnel issues from being aired publicly, said Buckway.

“If you’re speaking poorly of your council, that’s what we’re elected for,” said Buckway. “But if you speak poorly of your staff, they can’t answer back. That’s not fair.”

All of this is outlined in the councillors’ code of conduct.

Councillors are not obligated to sign the code, which hangs on Buckway’s office wall.

“You do not speak poorly of your staff,” she said. “To me, that’s just not something that you do not do. I just have no words for how disrespectful it is to do.”

Lawyers delayed the eventual wage settlement.

A BC law firm was reviewing the city’s pay equity rules, which have been to arbitration at least three times since 1988, most to resolve impasses with firefighters.

Under the city’s pay-equity rules, firefighters get paid less than Whitehorse’s garbage truck drivers.

And in the last deadlock, firefighters were offered a raise much smaller than they wanted. In fact, it would have kept their pay below that of firefighters in other similar-size Canadian municipalities.

And council objected to them getting even that much. It challenged the arbitrated settlement in court.

Now, the city’s firefighters have been without a contract for five years.

The city has agreed to review its pay-equity system, said city manager Dennis Schewfelt.

The system evaluates and ranks jobs.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents most city employees, asserted the city can pay people in the same rank different wages.

On the advice of its lawyers, the city believed otherwise, which prompted the 18-month holdup.

The Yukon Human Rights Commission was asked for its opinion on the matter.

It sided with the union on Christmas Eve.

The whole costly debacle was unnecessary, said Graham, who sided with the union from the get-go.

If council had listened to him from the start, it could have saved up to $200,000, he said.

The cost for the negotiations, legal advice and retroactive pay to employees has not yet been figured out, said Schewfelt on Tuesday.

The settlement awards an 8.5 per cent raise to all city employees, excluding the firefighters and management, over the next four years.

The firefighters’ contract is still awaiting a court decision and remains unresolved.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at