Edmonton Journal - - EDITORIAL -

If there’s one em­ployer in the city that should set the bar for a work­place, it should be the City of Ed­mon­ton. Work­ing in lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fers sta­bil­ity, at­trac­tive pay and em­ployee ben­e­fits and even gives the op­por­tu­nity to make a dif­fer­ence in the com­mu­nity. In­deed, the city of­ten boasts about be­ing a great place to work.

It’s dis­cour­ag­ing to learn that de­spite all of that, many past and cur­rent city work­ers de­scribe a flawed em­ployee-com­plaints sys­tem that leads to pock­ets of toxic work cul­ture.

Fil­ing a work­place com­plaint of­ten doesn’t solve the is­sue, but makes it worse for the em­ployee. Cur­rently, the sys­tem in­volves three on­line forms: one for the com­plainant, one for wit­nesses and an­other for the re­spon­dent — who has the right to see what has been said and who said it.

It’s a prac­tice that may force the em­ployee to work un­der that boss — who now knows of the com­plaint — for months while the in­ves­ti­ga­tion plays out. To call it an awk­ward sit­u­a­tion un­der­states the re­sult­ing bul­ly­ing and dis­crim­i­na­tion that’s been re­ported.

One woman de­scribed meet­ings where it felt like man­agers were look­ing for ways to dis­ci­pline her. An­other fed ideas to a male co-worker to present be­cause they were con­stantly shot down when com­ing from her. She even­tu­ally quit. An­other em­ployee is off work on stress leave af­ter an an­gry su­per­vi­sor slammed his fist close to the worker’s face and used a slur and ob­scene ges­ture.

It’s telling that other em­ploy­ees say they suf­fer in si­lence or seek other routes to com­plain rather than trust­ing the cur­rent process. How are work­ers sup­posed to file a griev­ance when they don’t have faith in the process?

It’s also clear from the re­sults of an em­ployee en­gage­ment sur­vey and the num­bers of work­ers who have come for­ward to Post­media, Coun. Tony Ca­te­rina and civic unions to air their con­cerns, that the cur­rent sys­tem for work­place com­plaints is bro­ken.

Credit the city for act­ing to over­haul the process. Un­der a new sys­tem to be out­lined to coun­cil next week, com­plaints will go di­rectly to the city man­ager, who will re­view and take im­me­di­ate ac­tion or send the file to a third­party in­ves­ti­ga­tor. The com­pleted in­ves­ti­ga­tion will be stripped of names, then go to a panel for re­view and rec­om­men­da­tions.

Let’s hope coun­cil­lors also heed the re­sults of the city au­di­tor’s re­port on work­place cul­ture ex­pected on Thurs­day.

As tax­pay­ers, it doesn’t serve the pub­lic well when city em­ploy­ees are too stressed to do their jobs or quit al­to­gether be­cause they’re be­ing bul­lied for lodg­ing a com­plaint.

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