WINCHESTER – North Dundas’ municipal staff get green light for salary increase but the council has put a cap on how much they can receive each year.

This year they will be receiving an increase of 3.0 per cent.

The municipality has a policy that in the past automatically generated an annual salary increase based on the consumer price index (CPI). Municipal staff did not have to negotiate every year for any kind of increase.

Last year the staff received .07 per cent increase but this year the CPI had gone up to 5.2 per cent. Normally staff would have automatically received the 5.2 per cent, however councillors felt that the number was out of line with the kind of expectations that were felt back when the bylaw was first created.

Getting around the earlier policy required amending the policy.

The mechanism that municipal staff will receive salary increases each year remains the same, but the percentages involved have been defined as between 1.5 per cent and 3.0 per cent.

The council also asked North Dundas chief administrative officer Angela Rutley to go ahead with a compensation and organizational review.

The amendment states: “In order to assist with any adverse effect on employees by fluctuations in their cost of living, the township salary grid will be adjusted annually by an inflation factor.

The inflation factor will be based on the Statistics Canada Consumer Price Index for Ontario, but will be at least 1.5 per cent and no more than 3.0 per cent in any year. The adjustment will be effective on Jan. 1 each year and based on the annual CPI for Ontario as of Dec. 31 for the previous year, within the stated minimum and maximum. In explaining the need for a change to the policy, Rutley said the municipality was not keeping up with compensation for their staff compared to some of their neighbours.

She stated in her report to council: “It has already been shown that North Dundas’ compensation ranges are falling behind that of our local competitors for numerous positions. The full extent is not known at this time, but will be determined with the completion of the budgeted compensation review. We have lost three full-time employees to the City of Ottawa and one to private industry in the last year.

In a market where most municipalities have job openings, paying less than our competitors means that we are not able to attract or hire experienced candidates. We regularly have to hire junior employees with little or no experience and sometimes without the required education and/or certification. This results in higher training costs and takes a lot more staff time, reducing productivity and increasing the pressure on the rest of the staff. In some cases, we have to pay staff to be trained, and they cannot perform their job function for a period of weeks or months until they are able to get the required certifications. The additional pressure on remaining staff to pick up the additional duties during a vacancy and to train new employees is burning out the existing staff.”

Rutley stressed that municipal staff was the municipality’s most important asset, “and retaining good staff, who want to work for the township, is much cheaper than trying to hire and train new staff, particularly at a time when the municipality is growing, and the workload is constantly increasing.”

She complimented staff on their dedication during the pandemic. “Our staff were able to continue to provide service during 2021, and our office remained open and in fact increased our hours of operation. When provincial restrictions were imposed, many of our staff willingly assisted other departments or performed tasks that were not part of their normal duties. As a group, staff performed very well during a difficult year that held many challenges, continual change, unprecedented employee turnover, employee absences and record-setting growth.”

Over the past nine years, the average salary increase for North Dundas staff has been 1.63 per cent with 2021 being 0.7 per cent and 2013 being 1.0 per cent.