Operation Cutbacks: What is true and what may lie ahead

The Union welcomes any and all questions regarding the effects upon members of the revised City of Vancouver operating budget.  Please direct your questions to the office phone – 604-322-4879 or to my e- mail, ayoungberg@members.cupe.ca.  The Union does not want to publish suppositions of what may or may not happen around the operating budget.  It is better for us as a membership to share our concerns in a less public venue, such as:
General Meeting
March 11, 2009, 6 p.m.
Alma Van Dusen and the Peter Kaye rooms
* The new City Manager, Penny Ballem, will be present to address some concerns.

Background on Present Operating Budget
Last year Vancouver’s property taxes had a modest increase, due in part to the savings generated from the City strike.  The real estate boom had peaked and development licenses were still selling briskly. Shortly after the property tax 2008 rates were set, the rumblings from the shaky ground of market capitalist enterprises in the Unites States began to reverberate in Canada.  People noticed that their investments in the markets and property in the Vancouver were heading south instead of continuing to climb. The property sellers market became a property buyers market, except that credit was no longer available to buy with.  Property is not moving. Developers have stopped buying licenses.  The percentages of available business rental property has more than doubled.  The City of Vancouver is losing much revenue from the selling of these licenses.

City staff had been directed to look for “savings and had found $26 million out of the budget through efficiencies. This would reduce this year’s tax hike for homeowners from 13 per cent to eight per cent.  Councillor Louie noted that the city’s revenue from construction activity was down 50 per cent over January 2008. That means a shortfall of $10 to $12 million for the year or another two per cent to any tax increase. Louie presented council with an “emergency” motion.

From minutes of the February 3, 2009 Council meeting

B. THAT Council direct the City Manager to immediately take all necessary steps
to produce a 2009 Operating Budget that will protect taxpayers and mitigate
any compromise of key City services;

FURTHER THAT the City Manager be asked to consider steps which may possibly

– review of all “projects” underway
– expedited implementation of shared services across all City
departments, outside Boards (Parks and Recreation, Vancouver Public
Library, Vancouver Police, Vancouver Civic Theatres) and
owned/controlled entities (Parking Corporation of Vancouver, Pacific
National Exhibition)
– hiring freezes
– pay freezes
– triage and limiting of all external consultant engagements
– early retirement
– review and adjust City business activities to align with the City core
mandate under the Vancouver Charter; and

FURTHER THAT the City Manager continue these efforts as necessary to limit
future property tax increases in 2010 and 2011.

A meeting was held with representatives from the union and city staff.  We asked questions regarding the effects of the operating budget.  It was generally conceded that a review of management services and projects would take place.

RFID is on hold.

What is happening with unionised staff?


  • Vacancies are not being posted at present.  If the interview are scheduled; they will go ahead
  • There will be NO rollbacks of wages or freezing of wages for unionised members.  That would be a contravention of our collective agreement


What is happening with management?


  • Salaries may be frozen in 2010 and a review may occur


The City Manager is reviewing all processes.  There is no point in idle speculation but there is much to be gained from the sharing information.  The Union will be preparing a report and needs the support of the collective memory of the local to make it a valuable resource in whatever struggles lie ahead.

The Union knows you are tired of the continuous upheaval.  Particularly when we are not responsible for the failures of market capitalism and P3s.  We need your knowledge of our local’s history to help defend our rights.  We can and will be supportive of the communities we serve. This economic downturn need not be an opportunity for others to downgrade our services; it can be an opportunity to rebuild.  Please send or phone in your comments and ideas.

in solidarity