City takes lax ap­proach to staff spend­ing

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion -

The 2018 State­ments of Fi­nan­cial In­for­ma­tion re­leased by the City of Prince Ge­orge last week didn’t just re­veal an 8.2 per cent in­crease in base pay in one year for the city man­ager. The state­ment of re­mu­ner­a­tion (fancy gov­ern­ment word for in­come) and ex­penses paid makes it clear that the City of Prince Ge­orge is mak­ing no ef­fort what­so­ever to con­trol employee spend­ing, start­ing with the city man­ager and se­nior bu­reau­crats.

In the real world (that is, the pri­vate sec­tor and most of the pub­lic sec­tor), man­age­ment and union-ex­empt staff op­er­ate un­der a “use it or lose it” pol­icy when it comes to va­ca­tion time.

If such an employee has 25 days (five weeks) of hol­i­day time but only uses 10 days (two weeks), that employee doesn’t get to roll that hol­i­day time for­ward into the next year and cer­tainly doesn’t get paid out for hol­i­day time not taken.

Still in the real world, man­age­ment over­see­ing union­ized em­ploy­ees is en­cour­aged to stay on top of over­time while also mak­ing sure those work­ers take their full al­lot­ment of hol­i­day time.

Besides the ob­vi­ous ben­e­fits to health, morale and pro­duc­tiv­ity when staff use the va­ca­tion time they’ve earned, the em­ployer isn’t stuck with the un­ex­pected ex­pense of va­ca­tion time pay­outs at the end of the year.

As has been clearly es­tab­lished in this space over the past year, how­ever, when re­port­ing both the 2017 and 2018 SOFIs, the real world does not in­trude upon the cozy con­fines of the fifth floor at Prince Ge­orge

City Hall, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to an­nual pay in­creases for se­nior man­agers (sig­nif­i­cantly higher than the union­ized staff they over­see) and over­time pay (dou­ble time, com­pared to time-and-a-half for union­ized city work­ers).

Never mind that the vast ma­jor­ity of man­agers and union-ex­empt su­per­vi­sors em­ployed in the real world don’t re­ceive over­time (man­age your time, they’re told), don’t re­ceive va­ca­tion pay­outs for un­used hol­i­day days (man­age your va­ca­tion time, they’re told) and face a rep­ri­mand or worse if their staff are con­tin­u­ously run­ning up over­time and un­used va­ca­tion time (man­age your de­part­ment and your em­ploy­ees, they’re told).

The City of Prince Ge­orge paid out just over $3 mil­lion in over­time to its em­ploy­ees in 2018, along with nearly $900,000 in va­ca­tion pay­outs.

Most of that over­time was clearly war­ranted when link­ing the pay­ments to the job po­si­tion. Much of it went to fire­fight­ers. Other over­time can be clearly tied to ac­com­mo­dat­ing the 2018 wild­fire evac­uees and/ or fight­ing the sink­hole that wouldn’t die at Winnipeg and Car­ney.

The va­ca­tion pay­outs, how­ever, show a dis­re­gard for ba­sic man­age­ment of staff hours and time, along with the cor­re­spond­ing costs.

Is­sues come up from time to time, of course, that may re­quire a hand­ful of em­ploy­ees to re­ceive com­pen­sa­tion for un­used va­ca­tion at the end of the year but that’s not the case at the City of Prince Ge­orge, where a ma­jor­ity of the em­ploy­ees re­ceived a va­ca­tion pay­out at the end of 2018.

So it should come as no sur­prise that all of the city’s se­nior man­age­ment team re­ceived a va­ca­tion pay­out in 2018 and six of them also re­ceived over­time in­come.

• City man­ager: $256,930.39 base pay, $0 over­time, $6,276.72 va­ca­tion pay­out.

• Gen­eral man­ager, ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices: $197,997.44 base pay, $883.63 over­time, $27,343.63 va­ca­tion pay­out.

• Gen­eral man­ager, plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment: $195,333.62 base pay, $1,521.79 over­time, $15,041.24 va­ca­tion pay­out.

• Gen­eral man­ager, com­mu­nity ser­vices: $193,671.04 base pay, $2,159.96 over­time, $4,848.30 va­ca­tion pay­out.

• Gen­eral man­ager, En­gi­neer­ing and Pub­lic Works: $198,433.77 base pay, $0 over­time, $1,835.43 va­ca­tion pay­out.

• Di­rec­tor of fi­nance: $179,020.68 base pay, $0 over­time, $2,442.89 va­ca­tion pay­out.

• Di­rec­tor of hu­man re­sources: $179,470.66 base pay, $4,818.23 over­time, $4,562.17 va­ca­tion pay­out.

• Di­rec­tor of pub­lic works: $184,532.48 base pay, $5,181.87 over­time, $2,167.38 va­ca­tion pay­out.

• Di­rec­tor of ex­ter­nal re­la­tions: $179,470.65 base pay, $1,727.29 over­time, $1,665.15 va­ca­tion pay­out.

• Di­rec­tor of en­gi­neer­ing: $169,190.66 base pay, $0 over­time, $2,626.10 va­ca­tion pay­out.

The over­time in­come doesn’t come close to match­ing the 2017 num­bers for th­ese po­si­tions but that’s be­cause the num­ber of wild­fire evac­uees in Prince Ge­orge didn’t come close to match­ing the num­ber of folks who fled to Prince Ge­orge in 2017.

Two num­bers, how­ever, jump out – the va­ca­tion pay­outs of $27,343.63 and $15,041.24 awarded to the gen­eral man­ager of ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices and gen­eral man­ager of plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment.

Seen one way, those pay­outs re­flect hard­work­ing man­agers who would rather work than take their al­lot­ted 30 days (six weeks) of hol­i­day time.

Seen an­other way, those pay­outs re­veal man­agers un­able to or­ga­nize their de­part­ments to op­er­ate without them for a week or two at a time. And seen from a dol­lars and cents per­spec­tive, th­ese two man­agers handed their em­ployer an unan­tic­i­pated bill for a com­bined $42,000.

In the real world, their boss would have prob­a­bly laughed at both of them and said it looks to me like you two gen­tle­men have 27,000 and 15,000 rea­sons, re­spec­tively, to bet­ter man­age your time and your de­part­ments next year so you can prop­erly use your al­lot­ted va­ca­tion time.

Of course, it never should have got that far. Their boss, the city man­ager, should have kept bet­ter track of the un­used va­ca­tion time of her two hard­work­ing lieu­tenants, thanked them for their com­mit­ment, scolded them for their poor time man­age­ment and kicked them out of their of­fices for the month of De­cem­ber if nec­es­sary.

In­stead, it’s just an­other bill passed down the line, with what ap­pears to be lit­tle con­sid­er­a­tion for the peo­ple ul­ti­mately on the hook for the bill.

Some­thing to think about for ev­ery­one set to pay their city taxes next week.

— Neil God­bout, edi­tor in chief

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