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City prepares for wave of retiring staff

City hall is preparing for an unprecedented number of workers, both management and union, who will be eligible to retire in the next four years.

According to the city’s 2011 annual report, 51 per cent of the city’s union-exempt managers, 37 people, are eligible to retire with an unreduced pension by 2016.

The report also says that 29 per cent of the city’s 450 permanent CUPE workers, about 130 people, and 22 per cent of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 905’s 100 or so members, will also be eligible to retire with full pensions by 2016.

That potential exodus, says Terry Hartley, human resources director for the city, could present some staffing challenges for the city.

“The 30 per cent number, overall, is pretty standard for municipalities and probably, as well, even in the public sector,” said Hartley. “It’s demographics.”

The Conference Board of Canada reports that B.C. will be facing a shortage of 160,000 skilled workers by 2015, which means municipalities will not be able to rely on either inter-provincial migration or immigration to solve the labour shortage.

To combat the potential workforce shortage, Hartley said the city has created a succession planning process, aimed at developing people already employed by the city to take over more senior jobs as they come available.

Competition between B.C. municipalities to attract the best workers and managers, however, is likely to escalate.

“We’re already seeing it,” said Ron Lambert, Nanaimo’s fire chief. “It’s done with incentives, it’s done with pay. Our pay here is pretty modest compared to similar-sized and larger communities. Therefore, there is certainly the potential to lose individuals to larger organizations that can afford to pay more.”

Lambert said the biggest risk is grooming internal personnel for senior jobs with local resources, only to have them lured away to other districts.

Of Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s seven exempt managers, five of those, including Lambert, will be eligible to retire in the next five years. Three of those could retire in the next two years.

“The face of the department will change, literally, in a short period of time,” said Lambert.

But just because people are eligible to retire doesn’t mean they’ll go, says Hartley.

“It’s a personal choice,” she said. “If they decide they don’t want to work anymore they could pull the plug.”

According to the Municipal Pension Plan, people with a Factor of 90 – age and years of pensionable service add up to 90 and the worker is over the age of 55 – can collect an unreduced pension, while workers who are 60, regardless of years of pensionable service, can retire with a full pension.

Workers without the Factor of 90 who retire before age 60 take a three per cent reduction each year before 60.

Nobody is eligible to retire before age 55.

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