Town agrees to increase non-unionized and management staff salaries

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Non-unionized and management staff with the town will be seeing a pay increase soon.

Town council voted to compensate staff at the 65th percentile, meaning that over the next six years, those salaries will have a budgetary impact of $368,683. Councillor Diane Pouget advocated for compensation at the 55th percentile level, or a budgetary impact of $257,012, as she didn’t feel the town was ready financially for a larger increase.

Pouget said the town still has “significant debt,” quoting a figure of $40 million, unfunded liabilities, $30 million in upgrades needed for the Amherstburg water treatment plant, roads and sewers that are “crumbling,” and significant upgrades needed at the Libro Centre.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) John Miceli said the town’s unionized staff members are among the highest paid in the region but the non-unionized staff rank among the lowest. In his written report to town council, Miceli stated “staff is presently compensated below market comparisons within the region and will continue to fall below compensation levels of comparator municipalities without an appropriate compensation adjustment. This decision may lead to challenges for the Town with the retention and recruitment of staff. It is important to note that the majority of our comparator municipalities are within minimal daily traveling distance and with the imminent number of retirements coming in the near future there will be a number of job opportunities available for staff.”

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There are problems looming in the municipal sector as it relates to staffing with thousands eligible to retire in the next five years.

“We have a significant crisis with respect to municipal employees,” said Miceli. “All I can say is that I know what is coming.”

Miceli said there are challenges in municipal departments as some only have one person holding a position. While the training budgets are slowly increasing, he said the town can’t be a “training ground” as there are not enough people to conduct training and believed raising compensation at the 65th percentile is a “minimal investment” in the town’s future.

Local municipalities are also limited in their abilities to attract people from outside the region, the CAO added, and that they will have to look at one another to attract staff.

“We will be pilfering from ourselves,” said Miceli.

Miceli said the town isn’t out of the woods yet financially but administration has done a good job to turn things around.

Councillor Leo Meloche agreed with Miceli but added that training of staff is also key.

“Performance is dependent on quality people,” said Meloche.

Pouget wasn’t buying the arguments, stating student placements could be used where knowledgeable and eager college and university graduates are utilized.

“Why aren’t we giving people a chance to coming in and learn?” she asked. “I don’t think we should keep bringing in retirees.”

Pouget added they had options between the 50th and 65th percentile to choose from and she thought the 55th percentile was fair.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo noted there has been a wage freeze for the non-unionized and management staff for two years.

“This is always a tough decision when you are talking about taxpayers’ money,” he said. “In simple terms, I had to support (the compensation at the 65th percentile) based on what the CAO said.”

DiCarlo added that “as much as people think we have a lot of people at town hall, we really don’t” and that they are training people as best they can.

“We do have to remain competitive,” he said. “We’re in a good place now and a lot of that is because of the people we have.”
DiCarlo also pointed out the increases will occur over a six year time frame.

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