Directors lock horns over Cowichan Valley Regional District staff salaries

The Cowichan Valley Regional District board put off a decision on a series of recommendations that would preserve the status quo on staff and board salaries and how those numbers are determined af ter several board member s expressed their dissatisfaction.

"I see it as a big problem," said Dir. Loren Duncan. "We’ve decided to do nothing. The community’s watching."

The recommendat ions came from the board and exempt management staff compensation committee, a body that was created after public outcry about what some allege are excessive levels of pay, par ticularly for senior management.

After hearing from an outside consultant, as well as an examination of policies, the committee recommended reaffirming the existing process for determining exempt staff salaries.

This means providing the same annual general wage increase that is provided unionized and nonunionized employees, and conducting a compensation survey of comparator local governments every three years to maintain the targeted position at the 50th percentile for relative salaries.

The committee further recommended providing benefits (family, MSP, extended health and dental) to electoral area directors.

The board was also advised to maintain municipal directors at their current pay levels and raise the pay of the board chair and electoral area directors to the same level of 16.5 per cent above the median for their comparators in other jurisdictions.

"I have a similar concern that it really says business as usual," said Dir. Bruce Fraser.

Di r. Phi l Kent defended the recommendations and work of the committee, saying they were made on the strength of information from sources both inside and outside of the CVRD.

He said he did not support all of the recommendations in full, but that he would have to think twice about taking on the chairmanship of such a committee in the future if the board was not going to trust its findings, but rather go back to the drawing board and come to their own conclusions.

He pointed out that he wasn’t sure there was an outcome that would both compensate the CVRD’s highly skilled people fairly and make those who think they get paid too much happy.

Dir. Ian Morrison said he took exception to the hard work of the committee being called a failure just because it didn’t come to the conclusions that some of the directors may have wanted. Reaffirming that the CVRD’s process is legitimate is in itself a legitimate conclusion, he pointed out.

"Whether the public is happy with the level of salaries, that wasn’t the question posed to the committee and it’s going to be communication that solves that," he said.

The subject will be coming back to the board table at their September meeting, with the reports the committee used to form its recommendations.