Some Midland employees will be getting get a pay bump.
Council approved the wage increase related to a cost-of-living allowance that will see workers get a 1.25% increase, applied retroactively to Jan. 1 this year. The move will cost about $47,000.
But the decision wasn't unanimous with Coun. Carole McGinn saying she couldn't support the increase given what's been going on in the community.
"I think it would be irresponsible for us to give people a pay increase when people in the community are struggling," she said. "The other thing is we haven't even gone to budget yet so we don't even know where are.
"The point is it's not the appropriate thing for us to be doing. I wouldn't accept a raise for myself. I want to be certain that I am representing the people and am in harmony and in union with people. I don't think this is a burden we should be putting on the taxpayers."
Laura Yourkin, director of human resources\health & safety clarified that this increase was passed last December.
"The management/non-union increase is taking into account that we have also given increases to each of our union groups," she said. "The management/non-union is the only group that hasn't received an increase for 2020."
However, when McGinn questioned her if the amount had been approved in last year's budget, she said, "This was not approved pre-COVID. This was taken to the human resources committee at the last committee meeting for which they recommended it be brought forth to council."
Coun. Bill Gordon sided with his peer.
"The cost-of-living wage increase itself is not offensive to me at all," he said. "It's the cost of living, I get it. If this had come to council before pandemic it wouldn't have been pulled."
Gordon said the town agrees to pay its unions the increase because of collective agreements.
"You'd only want to dig in and argue with them if they're being unreasonable," he said. "In my mind, we have the ability to pay this. It's nickels and dimes, not a lot of money in totality. Not getting an increase this late in the year is not going to change anybody's financial status, they haven't had the money all year. If this was just a cost-of-living increase for now and not retroactive to the beginning of the year, I probably wouldn't have had any problem with it."
Gordon said he was concernd about the optics of the decision.
"To me, this is just the wrong time to approve this," he said. "Right now, the message we send is that we're giving the staff a raise."
Coun. Cody Oschefski said that wasn't the message he thought would go out to the management/non-union employees.
"I think if we don't approve this it's sending a message to our union employees that the reason is we're bound by collective agreement," he said. "Then the non-union employees will get unions. This is in our budget. It was approved in December last year."
Creating divisions between employees is never good for morale, said Oschefski.
"Happy employees do good work," he said, adding, "Teamwork is the ultimate goal."
Coun. Cher Cunningham sided with Oschefski.
"I feel we need to make sure that like all municipalities we keep our staff and attract a quality of applicant to this place," she said. "We need to respect and keep them here. We have historically underpaid this type of staff. If we want to keep this type of staff, we need these people to be respected and this is an appropriate move to make at this time."
CAO David Denault offered insight into why the suggestion was brought forward.
"The important aspects we considered was one that although we're talking about bargaining units versus non-management, we're trying to create one team," he said. "And I want to be able to treat them as one unit.
"When potential employees look at the opportunities, they will pay attention to these things. I think not approving this sends the wrong message."
In the end, the recorded vote reflected that Gordon, McGinn, and Coun. Beth Prost were against the increase, while the rest were in favour of it. Deputy Mayor Mike Ross was not present at the meeting.
Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com