RQM council vetoes Cost of Living Adjustment

by Kevin McBain

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Non-unionized staff at the Region of Queens Municipality (RQM), and council members, will not be getting a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for this year.

The issue was debated in the past three RQM council meetings and a final vote was held October 13. Councillor Susan MacLeod was the sole supporter of the increase, arguing that the money was in the budget for it; she was voted down seven to one.

COLA is determined annually, based on Nova Scotia's Consumer Price Index (CPI). The adjustment to wages is made after being brought forward to a council meeting for approval.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) represents changes in the cost of a fixed basket of goods and services.

This year's CPI in the province was negative 0.5 per cent, in part because of lower gasoline prices. Consequently, despite the fact the money was allocated in the 2020-2021 budget, staff were unable to recommend a COLA increase.

RQM's mayor, David Dagley, emphasized that while he appreciated the work done by staff, he could not support an increase this year.

"Do we, as a council, support this in a year where there is no increase in CPI? ... Do we, as a council, support giving staff an increase? I don't think any member of council in the future should receive an increase where there is a negative consumer price increase," said Dagley.

While typically non-unionized employees receive COLA increases on an annual basis, council remuneration increases are based on the previous four years' COLA awarded to non-unionized RQM employees and come into effect the first council meeting following an election.

In 2016, the incoming council was given a 6.6 per cent pay adjustment.

The four-year cumulative adjustment of seven per cent will be given to the 2020-2024 council, taking into account previous COLA increases allocated to non-unionized employees of 1.3 per cent in 2016; 1.2 per cent in 2017, 2.7 per cent in 2018 and 1.8 per cent in 2019.

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