Overtime and lawyers exact a price on city budget


city_scope_logo-cmykIn his six-month budget monitoring report to city council this past Monday (Sept. 18), the city’s director of financing, David Aristone, is projecting an operating deficit of $25,000 this year.
Aristone cautions, however, there are three areas in which “the city may have some exposure for over expenditures but the magnitude is not known.”
In other words, that operating deficit could balloon rather significantly.
The three areas of concern?
Let’s start with 2017 salary negotiations which would include bargaining with city firefighters. They are seeking a 24-hour shift structure and unless an amicable agreement can be reached, this one will end up in arbitration. Continue reading

Advertisements

Ascent 2015 financial statement will spark your interest


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s a much anticipated document and it can be found in the agenda for Monday night’s city council meeting.

We are referring to the city’s consolidated financial statements for 2015 which include details of its investment in Ascent Group Inc.

Not sure whether it is meant to offer reassurance to ratepayers, however that portion of the document opens with “The city owns 100% of Ascent Group Inc. which in turn owns 100% of St. Thomas Energy Inc., Ascent Energy Services Inc., Ascent Solutions Inc., Ascent Utility Services Inc., and Ascent Renewables.

Once you digest the Ascent Group financial statement we, as ratepayers, would be better off owning a fleet of wheezing Russian Ladas.

If you thought the 2014 Ascent picture was grim, hold on. Continue reading

City’s negotiations on Valleyview labour deal deemed ‘bizarre’ and ‘ludicrous’


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s a case of “inefficiency, it’s disrespectful to the employees and it’s going to cost the city a fortune.”

Not a flattering assessment of labour negotiations between the city and Valleyview Home employees, represented by Unifor Local 27.

In fact, Unifor national representative Robert Buchanan calls the turn of events since May 25 when a settlement was reached with city administration both “bizarre” and “ludicrous.”

To recap, on June 8 about 100 City of St. Thomas employees at Valleyview voted in favour of the May 25 settlement.

The three-year deal provides for a two per cent wage increase in each year of the deal in addition to health and welfare benefit improvements.

The employees have been without a contract since Dec. 31 of last year.

The union’s bargaining team also secured a commitment from the city to maintain full-time jobs and add more staffing hours to the laundry department.

Continue reading

Workplace harassment: ‘a dangerous point’ at city hall


city_scope_logo-cmyk
It would be fair to suggest the City of St. Thomas, as a corporation, be held to a high standard of excellence with regard to workplace environment.

In other words, municipal employees in dealings with their peers would expect to enjoy a relatively harassment-free workplace in which to conduct city business.

Well it’s not quite that cut and dried, as we discovered following conversations in the last two weeks with human resources manager Graham Dart and a city works employee.

“As an employer, we don’t have to guarantee a harassment-free workplace, because we can’t do that,” Dart pointed out.

“There is no expectation or requirement of that. But there is an obligation on our part — especially under the Occupational Health & Safety Act — that we address harassment in the workplace.”
Continue reading

Filling vacant council seat akin to musical chairs


city_scope_logo-cmyk

Monday’s vote to appoint former mayor Cliff Barwick to fill the seat vacated by Sam Yusuf has unleashed a groundswell of anger and accusations across the social media universe.
Not to mention some questionable logic and judgment from both factions of council.
To get the ball rolling, you have to ask, when council had 60 days to fill the vacancy – whether by appointment or by-election – why did the Barwick 4 feel compelled to call a snap vote just minutes after officially declaring the seat vacant?
That in itself brought out the red flags, prompting Ald. Mark Cosens to charge, “it’s obvious that had been orchestrated.”
Point taken.
Continue reading

Stop the budget bus, we’re headed in the wrong direction


city_scope_logo-cmyk
The focus the government should be taking is job creation, especially in St. Thomas and Elgin. That’s the thumbnail analysis from Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek on the Ontario budget handed down Thursday.
“There’s pretty much zero for job creation or even getting our economy back on a somewhat level platform,” Yurek told City Scope on Friday.
“Spending is up $3.6 billion dollars at a time we’re trying to balance the budget. That’s just the wrong direction.”
Do you start with reeling in public sector salaries? Do you tinker with bargaining rights, as was the case with teachers?
Continue reading

I’m sorry, your patient care has been out-sourced


city_scope_logo-cmyk

It’s an atmosphere that has been described as poisonous. A department where the director is accused of harassing, bullying and belittling a long-time employee who, as a result, is now absent from the workplace on stress leave.
A situation where an individual charged with the financial welfare of a $110 million corporation is in flagrant and repeated violation of that organization’s respect in the workplace policy
What is shocking is the venue – the treasury department at city hall – and the actions of city treasurer Bill Day have put CAO Wendell Graves and human resources director Graham Dart between a rock and a hard place.
And, no matter what action they deem necessary, it could cost St. Thomas ratepayers dearly.
Continue reading