Wind­sor looks to di­ver­sify mu­nic­i­pal work­force

In re­plac­ing re­tir­ing work­ers, Dilkens is push­ing for new hires to re­flect makeup

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - BRIAN CROSS bcross@post­media.com

A wave of about 1,200 pre­dom­i­nantly white City of Wind­sor em­ploy­ees will be el­i­gi­ble to re­tire in the next five years and Mayor Drew Dilkens wants their re­place­ments to be much more racially di­verse. “To­day when I walk around city hall there are a lot of faces rep­re­sen­ta­tive of what it was like 25 or 30 years ago. That de­mo­graphic has changed,” Dilkens said Fri­day, as he ex­plained his Diver­sity and In­clu­sion Ini­tia­tive. Dilkens hopes the ini­tia­tive will trans­form the city hall work­force into some­thing that re­flects Wind­sor’s cur­rent sta­tus as the fourth most eth­ni­cally di­verse city in the coun­try. “When I was in high school at Vin­cent Massey in the late ’80s, early ’90s, if you said some­one was di­verse it meant they were Ital­ian. That was diver­sity,” the mayor said, es­ti­mat­ing that the stu­dent body was com­prised of 98 per cent white faces. Now, if you go to Massey, or any other high school, the makeup is dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent, he said.

Ac­cord­ing to cen­sus fig­ures for Wind­sor, the num­ber of vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties rose to 57,605 in the 2016 cen­sus (26.9 per cent) from 35,350 in the 2002 cen­sus (16.2 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion), an in­crease of 22,255 peo­ple when the city’s pop­u­la­tion rose just 8,120. Since fig­ures from the 2016 cen­sus ac­tu­ally come from 2015, the num­bers are un­doubt­edly even higher in 2018.

With 48 per cent of the city hall work­force el­i­gi­ble to re­tire in five years, the op­por­tu­nity is now to make changes to en­sure new hir­ing is re­flec­tive of the broader com­mu­nity, the mayor said.

“It doesn’t mean not tak­ing the best can­di­date. It still means tak­ing the best can­di­date,” he said, ex­plain­ing he wants to make sure that hir­ing poli­cies and prac­tices don’t have build-in dis­crim­i­na­tion or bi­ases that make it dif­fi­cult for mi­nori­ties to get their feet in the door.

He has asked staff to pre­pare a re­port on mak­ing the work­force more di­verse. Once com­pleted in the next month or two it would go to the city’s diver­sity com­mit­tee and even­tu­ally to city coun­cil for a vote.

“What I want is those who are com­ing here (to Wind­sor), and those who are from di­verse back­grounds who are here, I want them to feel like this is a place that is wel­com­ing,” the mayor said. “I want them to feel like they have op­por­tu­ni­ties here.” Dilkens is “100 per cent right” that the city hall work­force is “very white, very pink, very pale, very Euro­pean,” said Sushil Jain, who chairs the city’s diver­sity com­mit­tee.

“I know it has been like an old boys’ club, that’s what peo­ple have told me, that you needed to know some­one, but in the last few years, un­der this mayor and the last mayor, they’ve been try­ing to change it.”

One prob­lem the city has is that hu­man rights rules ham­per at­tempts to get ac­cu­rate data on the cur­rent makeup. Em­ploy­ees can only be asked to vol­un­teer the in­for­ma­tion and the num­ber of will­ing to do it is woe­fully in­ad­e­quate. Mark Van­der Voort, the pres­i­dent of CUPE Lo­cal 543 rep­re­sent­ing city hall in­side work­ers, said there will be a lot of peo­ple leav­ing in the next five years. And he shares his union’s po­si­tion that racial diver­sity to the work­force is a good thing, that “ev­ery­body needs to be given a fair shake.” He said the mayor’s in­ten­tions are laud­able. “I just think it needs to be done with an abun­dance of cau­tion to make sure every­one’s op­por­tu­ni­ties are con­sid­ered and it’s a fair process,” said Van­der Voort, who will be el­i­gi­ble to re­tire in the fall with an unre­duced pen­sion.

Dilkens wants ad­min­is­tra­tion to look at its hir­ing process and make sure there are no hid­den bi­ases that dis­favour vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties. “What this is re­ally about is say­ing that as this wave of baby boomers start to re­tire, how do we make sure that the sys­tems in­ter­nally are able to eval­u­ate and ap­pre­ci­ate skills and ex­pe­ri­ences from other places.”

Po­lice, who are not in­cluded in the 2,500-strong work­force Dilkens wants looked at, have done a great job in re­cent years of di­ver­si­fy­ing its new re­cruits, he said. But the story’s dif­fer­ent with the fire ser­vice, which is in­cluded in the work­force.

“Fire is not di­verse at all,” he said. “If you look at the last sev­eral classes (of re­cruits) it’s al­most all white faces.”

The mayor said his ini­tia­tive has noth­ing to do with court­ing votes of the city’s mul­ti­cul­tural groups for the com­ing Oct. 22 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion. It’s an is­sue that was part of his in­au­gu­ral speech af­ter he was elected in 2014.

“This is not some­thing that just popped on my screen to­day. I’ve been try­ing be­hind the scenes to try to fig­ure out the best way.” The wave of re­tire­ments is not just com­ing for Wind­sor, he said. It’s hap­pen­ing at mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties through­out the prov­ince, and these are well-paid jobs that peo­ple tend to stay at through­out their ca­reers.

“If I were a young per­son grad­u­at­ing univer­sity, I’d be cer­tainly ex­cited.”

TYLER BROWN-

“Fire is not di­verse at all,” says Mayor Drew Dilkens. “If you look at the last sev­eral classes (of re­cruits) it’s al­most all white faces.”

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