More than two years after their labour contract expired, Saint John police have reached an agreement with the city.
The four-year deal includes wage increases totalling 10.25 per cent — 2.75 per cent and 2.5 per cent retroactively for 2016 and 2017 and 2.5 per cent this year and next year.
The Saint John Police Commission announced the surprise deal Thursday morning, after it was ratified by members of the Saint John Police Association on Wednesday.
The two sides had been in a deadlock and scheduled to head to arbitration on Feb. 12, just as the city's firefighters union did last month, landing a ruling in their favour.
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"A good majority" of the police union's members voted in favour, said Const. Duane Squires, the president. He declined to reveal the percentage but did say 116 of the 142 members turned up to vote.
"It was a long process," he said, noting negotiations began in June 2016, with a total of 31 days of meetings.
"There was lots of issues from both sides and you know, we feel as a package that the package is fair, but we also feel that there was some concessions made related to time off and overtime, which our members will directly see, but we think it will help with the [city's] financial situation."
Police commission chair Jennifer Carhart said the new agreement responds to the issues raised by the association, without the added costs of arbitration.
"We're concerned about the overall cost of policing, particularly as it relates to the city's financial position, however we are satisfied that we have come to an agreement and we look forward to continuing to work with the dedicated men and women of the Saint John Police Force," Carhart said in a statement.
'If the province is looking for an example of why the arbitration process is broken they need look no further than Saint John.'- Don Darling, Saint John mayor
Saint John Mayor Don Darling, who sits on the commission, responded to the deal by saying police are "valued employees who help to ensure the safety and health of our city. They deserve our respect."
"The city is faced with rapidly escalating costs of emergency services and severe financial pressures across the board. City council will now need to determine how to account for this increase in light of those fiscal pressures," Darling said in a statement.
"If the province is looking for an example of why the arbitration process is broken they need look no further than Saint John."
Arbitration favoured firefighters union
The agreement comes on the heels of an arbitration board siding with the firefighters union in its wage dispute with the city.
An arbitration board approved a 2.97 per cent annual wage increase from 2015 to 2018 and a 2.96 per cent increase in 2019 last month.
It also increased holiday relief wages and mandated a joint labour management committee be established by the city to implement a 24-hour shift.
The mayor previously expressed his disappointment with the arbitration outcome for the firefighters, saying it would have a direct impact on the city's financial sustainability.
The 2018 city budget of $152 million is $1.4 million lower than last year. The police and fire department budgets were each cut by $1.25 million.
The previous police contract expired on Dec. 31, 2015.