Calgary review finds city employees compensated less than private sector

The renovation work on Calgary's historic city hall is covered in mystery. May 8, 2018. Aurelio Perri, NewsTalk770

A review of the City of Calgary’s compensation for all employees shows that the city’s total compensation is in line with other municipalities, but “slightly behind” the private sector.

The compensation report was done by Morneau Shepell and the Wynford Group, looking at salary, incentives, benefits and pensions for five groups: union, non-union, senior management, firefighters and sworn officers.

The report is a response to calls from the public, public interest groups and members of council to reduce the city’s budget through things like pay cuts and removing pensions.

“It became apparent during the economic downturn that salary freezes, collective agreements, settlements and public perceptions about public sector compensation reinforce the need to obtain current, relevant, valid and reliable market data to determine the city’s market positioning,” city manager David Duckworth said Monday.

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“This will help the city make appropriate adjustments if required, using an evidence-based approach.”

The report found sworn officers and firefighters have slightly higher than average base salaries compared to other major cities, but are behind similar cities on the upper end. Union employees enjoy compensation similar to all sectors on average but they fall behind the private sector on the upper end. Senior management gets better compensation compared to other public sector bodies, but is behind the private sector.

Duckworth said the city needs to be able to attract top talent and with a competitive compensation package, calling it “an essential part of attracting and retaining qualified staff.”

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“It is fundamental to keep employees motivated to build a career with the city to ensure the continuation of our vital, important services,” Duckworth told city council.

Duckworth also said compensation the city offers needs to be “reflective of and sensitive to changes in our economy.”

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Calgary’s mayor was surprised by how the city lags behind others across the country.

“I knew it fell short in Calgary because wages in Calgary for every job are much higher than in other parts of the country,” Nenshi said. “But I was surprised how much we fell short across the country.

“I was hoping we’d save a bunch of money with this review, but it sounds like we’ve actually been chipping away at this for a long time.”

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) said, despite the report’s findings, city councillors “need to take a look outside the window.”

Click to play video: 'Packed agenda for Calgary City Council on Jan. 18'
Packed agenda for Calgary City Council on Jan. 18

“People are struggling, families are struggling, businesses are struggling,” CTF director Franco Terrazzano said. “We need city hall to reflect the realities facing Calgarians. And these are the realities not just over the last few months where everyone is struggling with COVID-19 and the lockdowns.

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Using this new report, city officials will look at how to reset the city’s philosophy around paying its employees.

And the mayor said the report will help with “myth busting” about compensation the City of Calgary offers and so-called “golden pensions.”

“Certainly as we’re going into an election, you’re going to hear a lot of misinformation about city compensation. But at least the facts are out there.”

–with files from Adam MacVicar, Global News

The City of Calgary Total Compensation Review Report

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