It wasn’t audible, but there appeared to be a collective “sigh of relief” once things got going at Monday afternoon’s meeting of Sarnia City Council.
That was when the first item of business began—a “receive and file” motion on a controversial November 16 report on post-retirement benefits that would have seen the municipality put a cap on post-retirement benefits, notably (and problematically as it turns out) doing so outside the current collective agreement.
While the proposed move would, some say, be “allowed” in the contracts’ current language, it has been clear that a line was crossed as far as labour leaders were concerned.
As it stands with Monday’s vote, clearer heads prevailed in this discussion and the direction to limit benefits for early retirees will become a bargaining table discussion.
The vote to do so was unanimous.
Had the issue been adopted, a cap of up to $3,500 on healthcare spending for early City retirees would have been imposed. The City currently spends $7,000 per retiree.
The new direction is to allow the City to have greater discussions, not only with its worker unions, but with the County of Lambton, officials of which are doing their own analysis of benefit costs.
The move doesn’t mean the City is giving up on cost cutting as far as benefits are concerned. Indeed, a report by staff is due to be delivered to Council in March, that examining an option whereby City workers would pay part of what the municipality now covers in benefits.