Delayed resolution to disputes over fired city inspectors
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/04/2022 (414 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
More than two years after a city probe concluded some municipal inspectors wasted hours of their work days on extended breaks and personal chores, leading eight employees to be fired, a battle over the dismissals continues.
An arbitration hearing for one of the eight terminated planning, property and development inspectors was scheduled to begin on Monday.
Instead, the public session was cancelled, according to the head of a key city union.
“Quite often, at the 11th hour, there’s some resolve. Whether that’s going to be the case with the others, I don’t know,” said Gord Delbridge, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500.
He declined to share details of the exact case.
In a brief emailed statement, the city’s corporate communications manager David Driedger confirmed the grievance was scheduled to go to arbitration but did not proceed to a hearing.
“To date, only one grievance was scheduled to go to arbitration; in this particular instance, the union withdrew the grievance and it did not proceed to hearing. Dates for arbitration have not yet been scheduled for any of the other grievances,” he said.
The city publicly confirmed the eight staff dismissals in September 2019.
Delbridge said the union is still contesting the seven other dismissals individually, which could be negotiated or possibly lead to arbitration hearings.
The penalties were announced several months after a private investigator tracked 17 city staff and released a surveillance report in April 2019, which led the city to investigate its claims. Specifically, that report alleged multiple inspectors often took lengthy coffee and lunch breaks, misused work time to complete personal chores and/or left work early. However, it concluded one of the employees consistently worked full days.
The surveillance report alleged some inspectors appeared to work an average of just three hours per day.
The investigator was hired by an anonymous group of homeowners, business owners and construction contractors, who reported having negative experiences with the city department.
In addition to the lost jobs, seven municipal employees were suspended, four received written reprimands and one was issued a non-disciplinary letter, following the city’s probe of the allegations. The city probe also found some managers didn’t do enough to enforce workplace rules.
And city officials confirmed some managers were among those penalized.
In September 2019, the city confirmed the union had grieved all of the terminations.
Delbridge said the union believes the city handled the situation unfairly.
“These were members that had careers and, in the event that there was wrongdoing, they should be given the opportunity to correct that behaviour,” he said. “Discipline should be progressive.”
Since the city announced the penalties more than two years ago, Delbridge said he has also grown concerned by how long it is taking to address the union challenges, noting there’s no set timeline for when the process will end.
“I’m kind of frustrated with the city in how they delayed this process for as long as they have. That wasn’t fair to the members,” he said.
Coun. Sherri Rollins, a member of council’s executive policy committee, said it’s important to address such disputes as quickly as possible.
“Timing is a factor on settlement and so, typically, when it’s resolved without arbitration that’s what you like to see,” said Rollins. “It is a concern when things aren’t resolved expeditiously.”
The city said such disputes can take a long time to address.
“It’s not uncommon for the grievance arbitration process to take months or years,” wrote Driedger.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
Updated on Tuesday, April 19, 2022 10:50 AM CDT: Story clarified with more precise language about labour grievance being withdrawn.