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Saint John police reach stalemate with city in contract talks

Click to play video 'Saint John-police association contract talks break down' Saint John-police association contract talks break down
WATCH: Contract negotiations between the City of Saint John and its police association have barely begun, and already they've broken down.

The union representing Saint John’s police force says contract negotiations with the city have broken down.

At a press conference on Thursday, Duane Squires, president of the Saint John Police Association (SJPA), and SJPA spokesperson Bob Davidson said negotiations came to an end shortly after they began.

The stalemate leaves the police force without a contract after the most recent collective agreement between the two expired at the end of 2019.

READ MORE: Saint John explores selling, leasing TD Station operations ahead of looming budget deficit

The SJPA wants the city’s officers paid at least the same as their Fredericton counterpart, but the city says the money just isn’t there.

“Every fair-minded person in Saint John would not visualize the Saint John police making less than the Fredericton police. That’s nonsensical,” said Davidson.

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Saint John is facing an $11-million deficit as a provincial funding agreement expires.

After news broke last week that the force was expected to make $1 million in cuts, the failure to reach a deal came as no surprise.

“When you come in with a mandate that ties your hands, you can’t negotiate. That’s the problem,” said Squires.

Click to play video 'Saint John Council continues to grapple with budget shortfall' Saint John Council continues to grapple with budget shortfall
Saint John Council continues to grapple with budget shortfall

Saint John Mayor Don Darling, speaking on behalf of the City of Saint John, said he was disappointed to learn the SJPA had “walked away from negotiations” with the Saint John Police Commission.

In a statement issued late on Thursday, Darling said the SJPA’s decision to apply for a conciliation officer — a first step towards binding arbitration — was “discouraging since we need them to part of a solution for a sustainable Saint John.”

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“As a city, we have committed to addressing our cost problem,” said Darling.

“Every service within the city must be part of the solution to help achieve growth, cost-savings and long-term financial sustainability for Saint John.”

In the event of binding arbitration, an independent third party would determine the rules of a new contract.

When asked about the next steps, Davidson says it’s expected that a conciliation officer will meet with both the union and the city sometime next week.