City could seek worker diversity in sewage upgrade bids


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THOSE bidding for work on the planned $1.854-billion sewage treatment plant upgrade could be rewarded for efforts to employ diverse groups of local staff.

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This article was published 29/01/2022 (203 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THOSE bidding for work on the planned $1.854-billion sewage treatment plant upgrade could be rewarded for efforts to employ diverse groups of local staff.

A motion calls for the City of Winnipeg to add new requirements for all bidders on future north end sewage treatment plant upgrade contracts.

Those companies would be asked to highlight any targets they set to train and/or employ Indigenous staff and “other under-represented groups.” They would also be asked to focus those efforts “within the Manitoba market.”

“I think Indigenous workers are under-represented on most of these projects. Here’s our chance to try and promote some local hiring, promote some local workers, some local businesses,” said Coun. Brian Mayes, who raised the motion.

As the one of the largest infrastructure projects the city has ever undertaken, the councillor said the plant upgrades should be targeted to produce local economic and equity benefits, including opportunities for those who may otherwise face barriers to employment.

“These are huge projects (in each phase of work), worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Here’s our opportunity to try and do something to promote Indigenous employment and training,” said Mayes, head of council’s water and waste committee.

He expects a focus on local workers would also help the city avoid some COVID-19 pandemic challenges and delays, such as if out-of-province contractors could not travel to Winnipeg due to public health restrictions.

“Let’s try and ensure we don’t run into shortages of skilled labour,” said Mayes.

If approved by council, the changes would apply to all contracts for the final two of the three-phase upgrade, since the first round of projects has already been awarded, said Mayes.

Damon Johnston, president of the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg, said the initiative has potential to expand upon long-standing city efforts to ensure its own staff becomes more diverse. The city tracks and reports on the inclusion of women, Indigenous peoples, people of colour and people with disabilities within its workforce.

With this proposed change, companies to which the city contracts work out would also have an incentive to better reflect the makeup of the broader community, said Johnston. “I think these changes encourage the system to slowly and steadily change for the better.”

Johnston said potential barriers to employment could include everything from racial discrimination to inaccurate assumptions that someone with a certain disability, or of a certain gender, would not be suited to a particular job.

Coun. Markus Chambers, who has long championed efforts to increase the diversity of the city’s workforce, said he supports the motion.

“We should ultimately strive… to find the best worker available to do the job and the task based on their skills, experience and training for the position, but also (have) a mechanism to level out the playing field (so hiring practices don’t) discriminate or have an unconscious bias against (some) individuals,” said Chambers.

Mayes’s motion will be considered at the Feb. 2 meeting of the water and waste committee.

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

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.

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