Naniamo city hall. (News Bulletin file)

Naniamo city hall. (News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo city councillors vote against changes to senior management contracts

Changes would have capped the number of sick days that can be banked

Senior managers and non-union employees with the City of Nanaimo won’t see the changes to their employment terms that were being considered.

That’s because Nanaimo city councillors voted 5-4 against adopting a Bylaw 7273, which would have made numerous changes to contract language. Had Bylaw 7273 been adopted it would have replaced Bylaw 7000, an existing bylaw from 2005 that outlines the employment terms and conditions for management at the city.

According to a staff report, Bylaw 7273 would have removed the use of the ‘Hay system,’ a style of job evaluation. It would haveclarified that three weeks of vacation must be used before “exploring carry forward or payout,” and lowered the maximum number of carry-forward vacation days from unlimited to five days in total.

It also would have removed a clause allowing management, officers and excluded employees who have been employed with the city continuously for at least five years to receive a payout for any unused sick days, up to a maximum of 60 days.

There would have also been changes in language around employment conditions, such as permitting vacation time to be used within a 15-month period instead of a 12-month period.

During Monday’s meeting, John Van Horne, the city’s director of human resources, told councillors that there are a number of staff who would have been affected by changes to the bylaw.

“The concern from staff is that it will create a barrier for career development, promotion and succession planning,” Van Horne said.

Jake Rudolph, the city’s interim chief administrative officer, told councillors that there are a lot of staff members who work overtime and don’t get paid for it. He said while the language within the bylaw may be improved, the city’s competitiveness would be hampered and changes would lead to pushback.

“It will motivate some staff to leave,” he said. “Those are the ones who will be impacted in terms of their vacation and that type of things. I am not saying that is a bad thing, I am just saying there will be some attrition.”

One of the issues of contention for some councillors supporting the bylaw was around the way the city currently allows employees with five years of continuous serve to receive a payout of unused sick leave when they retire.

Coun. Jim Kipp, who supported amending the bylaw, said policies need to be changed, particularly the language around unused sick days.

“If you’re in for 20 years and you don’t take any sick time and you bank the sick time at $10 an hour and now you’re making $30 an hour when you [get] paid out as gratuity for having a lifelong commitment to the City of Nanaimo,” he said. “I believe those things need to be changed.”

However, Coun. Diane Brennan felt the changes would harm the city’s ability to attract new hires and talented senior managers.

“When we treat our employees in a way that is unfair, they begin to look for either other jobs or they begin to look for other ways to influence the employer,” she said.

Kipp disagreed, saying the city attracts plenty of people.

“The point that we are not going to get good people or we are not getting good people, that would mean up to this point we haven’t got good people and I don’t believe that is true,” he said. “I don’t think we always have to have the top draft pick.”

Coun. Gord Fuller said people still want to work at the city despite all the “so-called dysfunction” that has occurred over the last four years, while Coun. Bill Bestwick said he struggled with the idea of people not wanting to work at the city because they can’t bank sick time.

“I cannot imagine somebody saying no that I can’t bank and carry over for 20 years,” he said. “It would just seem too rare to me that somebody would think that way, of course everybody can think how they wish.”

Meanwhile, Coun. Ian Thorpe said he wanted to see comparative information from other municipalities, would welcome a third-party analysis on the city’s compensation packages and benefits, and doesn’t want to penalize the city’s existing staff. He later said he can’t understand why the amendments couldn’t wait until a compensation review process takes place next year, calling the proposed changes a “slap in the face.”

Although Coun. Jerry Hong originally stated he would support the motion, he later changed his mind and voted against it. Thorpe, Brennan, Coun. Sheryl Armstrong and Mayor Bill McKay also voted against the bylaw.

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