Vancouver moves ahead with pay hikes for city managers amid pandemic

Click to play video 'Global News exclusive: Vancouver city managers receive raises during pandemic' Global News exclusive: Vancouver city managers receive raises during pandemic
Global News exclusive: Vancouver city managers receive raises during pandemic

Global News has learned that just one day after Vancouver homeowners submitted their property taxes, city management received new merit-based pay hikes.

The raises, which kicked in Oct. 1, applied to qualified exempt staff, such as managers and non-union workers.

Read more: Vancouver council approves quarter-billion dollar capital budget cut amid COVID-19

The city would not say how many people received a pay bump, but said while increases varied by employee, the average was 4.8 per cent.

“Merit increases are only applicable to staff members whose salary is below the maximum of the pay range and are based on meeting or exceeding performance expectations,” deputy city manager Paul Mochrie told Global News in a statement.

Click to play video 'Vancouver budget cuts' Vancouver budget cuts
Vancouver budget cuts

The pay raises exceed Canada’s annual cost of living adjustment, which is about two per cent.

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They also came amid significant belt-tightening in the city due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: ‘The wrong message’: Vancouver cuts sanitation funding, hires $95K social media staffer

Earlier this year, the city laid off about 1,800 city workers as it sought to deal with a budget crunch. It also discussed cutting the police budget and moved ahead with a cut to a planned increase in the city’s sanitation budget.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart also publicly pleaded with senior levels of government for a financial bailout in the spring.

Click to play video 'Vancouver mayor criticized for asking for provincial bailout' Vancouver mayor criticized for asking for provincial bailout
Vancouver mayor criticized for asking for provincial bailout

Vancouver city councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung told Global News she could see no justification for the merit increases amid the current financial conditions.

“We recently at council cut a quarter of a billion dollars from the capital budget,” Kirby-Yung said.

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“We had to close a gap of approximately $140 million on the operating budget. And we know heading into 2021 that it’s going to be a tough year, and we’re going to have a tough time making that budget work.”

Read more: Vancouver mayor says he was ‘blindsided’ by closed-door vote to cut police budget

Kirby-Yung said she was unaware that city staff were proceeding with the merit increases.

“It’s my expectation that management are going to adjust in response to the conditions we find ourselves in,” she said.

READ MORE: COVID-19 cash crunch: Vancouver mulls financial impact of 3-, 6- and 9-month lockdowns

The city says it made clear in the spring that the pay raises, which were initially planned for April 1, would only be deferred until Oct. 1 as a cost-saving measure.

It added that the city also implemented a furlough program from April to September that saw exempt staff work fewer hours and take a pay cut of 10 per cent.

The city says all exempt/non-unionized employees were subject to furlough days or a 10% pay cut, while not all were eligible for or received the merit increases.