Mayor Rob Ford has reined in pay increases for the city’s top executives, demonstrating that he is willing to apply his penny-pinching principles even to his most senior advisers.
The move followed a day-long debate over compensation for non-union employees and was made over the objections of some of his closest allies on council who argued the raises were needed to attract and keep top talent.
The mayor sat silent for the debate while many of his executive, including Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday and the mayor’s brother Councillor Doug Ford, spoke about the need to reward the long hours put in by dedicated staff who successfully found efficiencies and saved the city money.
“It is completely disrespectful to the taxpayers and there is no reason for it,” the mayor told reporters when asked about the proposed 2.75-per-cent increase for senior managers in each of the next two years, as well as bonuses that would go as high as five per cent.
“It’s outrageous,” said the mayor of the potential for executives to get an annual increase of more than 7 per cent.
“To me that’s too rich, I’m sorry,” he said.
The mayor’s motion, which passed 23-11, reduced top bonuses to 3 per cent and gave all non-union staff, including executives, a 1.9-per-cent increase in each of the next two years.
Councillor Holyday, head of the city’s labour relations committee and a key figure in the tough contract talks with city unionized workers, also said the proposed wage increases and bonuses were required to make up for past years when pay packets were frozen for senior managers. The increases are needed, he said, to prevent the pay levels of union and non-union staff from growing closer together.
The mayor’s brother said it was not fair to reduce increases of hard-working staff who have delivered results. “To put it bluntly they got screwed,” he said. “I adamantly disagree with this decision.”
Mr. Holyday said he was disappointed by the outcome, noting that city pay levels have fallen compared to other municipalities.
“It’s not that you don’t attract people to work here, it’s that you want the top people,” he said.
An effort to tie non-union staff increases to union contracts also failed. Mayor Ford said such a policy would put management in conflict because they would be representing their own interests when negotiating with unions. “It sort of defeats the purpose,” he said. “The people that are non-unionized are going to be going for a big number too.”
Councillor Adam Vaughan, a critic of the mayor, argued the city’s difficulty in attracting staff went beyond pay levels. “The Ford administration is having trouble attracting senior staff and what this debate is about is making us think it is about money – it’s more than that,” he said.
Council also voted in favour of seeking leave to intervene in a Toronto legal clinic’s court case related to the federal government’s axed long-gun registry.
The clinic is seeking an injunction that would stop of the destruction of the registry’s existing long-gun data.
Councillors Holyday and Ford said the city solicitor advised during a closed-door session against taking legal action, warning the costs could be high and the odds of success low.
But Kristyn Wong-Tam, one of the left-leaning councillors who supported the move, said the city’s top lawyer simply offered some “cautions” about legal action. City solicitor Anna Kinastowski declined to clarify because the matter was dealt with in-camera.
The issue was the last major item at a meeting that dragged on a full day longer than scheduled. With many of council’s right-wingers gone for the evening, the left won the vote handily, 20-13.
“I haven’t got a clue where they are,” Deputy Mayor Holyday said of his colleagues. “But certainly the other side is astute enough to take advantage of the fact that if they can drag things on long enough, our numbers are down.”
As council took a break for the summer, Mr. Ford said he plans to use the time to visit parts of the city. “I am going to take one week at a time, get out into the communities, keep working hard like I always do,” he said.
The mayor was asked about his priorities for the fall. “I’m just warming up,” he said.