City managers feeling betrayed by Ballem's pay cut

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


family feud
Survey says...Vancouver managers weren't in support of pay cuts unless everyone felt the pain

On Friday we found out that Vancouver's city managers had agreed to delay their 4% pay increase as a measure to help balance the budget. At the time it appeared this decision was put forward by the management team as a collective goodwill measure to help shore up the City's finances.

Over the weekend, was contacted by a number of city managers who are royally upset with City Manager Penny Ballem's move to take $650,000 out of their jeans. One of those managers even sent us the results of an internal survey which bears proof that not everyone saw eye-to-eye with Ballem's decision.

Some of the managers are upset with the fact that none of the $650,000 will actually end up saving a single public service job. Rather, all of the money will be tucked away in a rainy day fund (aka contingency fund) instead.

Other managers are furious the feedback they provided to VACMPS (management's bargaining unit) was basically ignored. We previously broke the news that the city managers were being surveyed to determine their appetite for a salary claw back. If the survey results are accurate, they do not paint the same picture Ballem portrayed last Friday in her staff report.

According to an internal memo we obtained, 86% of all respondents said they would be opposed to a rollback in management wages unless they were applied across the board to unionized employees as well. Here is a copy of that memo:

Sent: Thursday, December 17, 2009 2:51 PM
To: Staff Eligible for VACMPS - DL; Staff Eligible for VACMPS (Police) - DL; Staff Eligible for VACMPS (Library) - DL

Subject: VACMPS - Summary of feedback from 2010 wage survey

Thank you to all those who participated in the recent survey we had an excellent response rate. It should be noted that using Survey Monkey in the openly accessible format we prepared did create a few challenges. This in turn caused some delays in summarizing the responses and your patience is appreciated.

As I am sure you are aware, the survey was based on the question posed to exempt staff by the City Manager at the Nov 12, 2009 "Connecting the Dots" meeting. At that meeting exempt staff were asked to forego or delay a portion of the 4% increment agreed to for 2010.

I wanted to provide a quick summary of the feedback we received. The information below is a summary of your responses. It should be noted that some survey responses were omitted (e.g. duplicates or where the author could not be confirmed).

To the question:

I would be prepared to forego all or a portion of the 2010 wage increase in order to reduce the number of staff impacted by the Operating Budget reductions providing the full amount of the savings is directed toward this purpose:

The percentage response received was:
A. Yes, but only if the similar concessions were applied to all staff. 44%
B. Yes, regardless of whether other staff groups agreed to similar concessions 14%
C. No 42%
Of those answering YES to the above, 88% suggested that only a portion of the 4% wage increase should be considered.

Interesting items arising from reviewing the data:
· subject to concessions being applied to all staff, almost 60% (58%) of respondents stated that they would be willing to forego all or a portion of the 2010 wage increase.

 - that a significant number of respondents noted that any concession of the 2010 wage increase should include all staff group

- the potential for savings would be that much more
· that a significant number of respondents suggested that only a portion of the 2010 wage increase should be considered.

Other comments and concerns received:

+ Potential impact to pension (e.g. top 5 years of earnings)
+ Deferral is preferred as has been done in some previous years. Could be phased in over 2010 (e.g. 2% Jan 1st, and 2% July 1st)
+ Potential for wage compression (deferral versus foregoing increase)
+ Similar budget challenge noted for 2011 – long term solution needed for operating costs related to all wages

This information is being shared with you and has been discussed with Patrice Impey, General Manager of Financial Services and Human Resource Services.

Other than verbal discussions regarding this survey and the related results, you should also know that VACMPS is not aware of any initiative to use the 2010 or 2011 wage increase as a tool to help balance the current operating budget. Should we learn any new information, we will share it with you.

VACMPS Executive

Scott Edwards
Bill Boons
Tom Hammel
Grace Cheng
Howard Normann
Lise LaLonde
Nick Delmonico
Rosemary Hagiwara

One of the managers we spoke to on the condition of anonymity was pretty blunt with their assessment of what just transpired:

To say my colleagues and I feel betrayed by the City Manger is an understatement. We never thought that she would claw back our wages only to stuff those savings in a bank account. It was the equivalent of putting a lump of coal in our stockings and wishing us Merry Christmas. There is simply no trust left between her and most of the management team.

With City Hall about to shut down for the holidays this week, there clearly remains a smell of bitterness lingering in the air. This has been a tough year at 12th and Cambie, and it doesn't look like 2010 will get much better any time soon.


The worst part of this decision is that is being applied to ALL exempt staff, including the administrative staff who do not make huge wages.

I agree with cityhall worker. I feel very betrayed and that Council and the public have been lied to. Exempt staff were told that their increases were a negligible compared to the unions getting their wage increases...what are the unions going to give back to the City/people of Vancouver?

Doesn't Mayor Moonbeam have any input into this matter or has Ballem turned her position into another fiefdom?

It is odd that it took 3 weeks to report the results of a two question survey. It is very odd that the results were discussed with the head of finance (and who else?) in advance of Councils report but nothing reported to the membership until the night before the council meeting.

What is most odd is that VACAMPS did not take a stand on behalf of its members. The members have been betrayed!

As was explained to us, the reason the survey took 3 weeks to report is that the link was posted on this web site which meant that ANYONE could fill out the survey. The VACAMPS Exec had to go through all the results to figure out which were from VACAMPS members. The pay cut sucks but it could have been worse.

Penny Ballem living by the social axiom, "How to win friends and influence people." Except, of course, her interpretation of the axiom is all wrong. Really, when the otherwise even keel Bill Boons is pissed, you know the City Manager has lost any semblance of support among the managerial class at City Hall. Vision Vancouver are proving to be not only inept politicians (with a tin ear for the needs of the electorate), but phenomenally inept managers, as well. Whatever good will VV had garnered early in their term all but seems to have evaporated in recent weeks.

Come on guys. Everyone knows what this is about. Us exempt staff actually kept the city running during the strike. We worked night and day to pick up the garbage and keep the city looking good. The union ranks were choked that the brass made them go out on strike and unnecessarily lose pay for so long.

This deal to cut our pay is all about retribution for the CUPE strike in '07. Let's not kid ourselves. On Friday the unions wanted to show who's running city hall now, and it ain't management. I too feel for the exempt staff who are not in management. Vision is treating them like the grinch that stole christmas.

The only fair thing to do would have been to have made this wage roll back across the board. But Vision is too chicken to take on the unions. Plain and simple.

"don't pee in my ear and then tell me it's raining"

This was a decision by the City Manager (and or CMT) that was then 'spun' to look like a benevolent act on behalf of the exempt staff.

Why can't they take responsiblity for their decision rather than trying to blow sunshine where it doesn't belong...

Simply put, Penny and the functionally retarded council have proven once again that they care nothing of the staff (that’s all staff not just exempt...think 170+ layoffs) that actually do the work in City Hall. Rumors swirl what the “Dr. of staff betrayal” will now be pulling on the unionized staff, it’s obvious there is no loyalty to either side (exempt or union) by the above mentioned. It’s amazing how low staff moral has become, and how Ballem regularly screws the very people that meet her ridiculous demands (and believe me tax payers they are) on a daily basis. I understand business is business, but it is hard not for staff to take things like this (and what’s to come) personally.

Why are the staff are upset? The pay raise is coming, just delayed.

THAT Council approve the recommendation of the Corporate Management Team to change the planned January 1, 2010 salary increase of 4% for exempt staff to a 2% increase commencing January 1, 2010 followed by the remaining 2% increase on July 1, 2010.

Like not getting your raise on 90 grand is going to f'up your life for 4 months. Yes, this was not handled correctly but these things never are. I don't get why everyone is in a tizzy over a delayed 4% increase. Most people in 2009 got pay freezes or at most CPI increase.

Ballem is in a clear conflict of interest as a hematologist who is making everybodies blood boil...

Ballem didn't even have the decency to tell exempt staff about this pay cut in advance. Exempt staff didn't learn about it until the morning of Dec 18, when the Council report became available.

None of the whining managers have not mention the 6 % extra they got after the last strike as well as the same raises as the unions. There seems to be a sense that they should get and have always got what was negoitated by the workers. That is not to mention the review of their work and additional pay boosts for some plus the unexplained creation of new exempt positions in the service obviously designed to better manage the next "strike."
How else do you expect the workers to lash back when we see these things going on.
The City has gone from a 14 to 1 manager to worker ratio to a 9 to 1. Can anyone explain that to us?
Many of the managers have spent time in the union and many support us because there is no way some of you should be paid what you are unless the unions negotiated the wages we have.

We heard in the hall that you were going to get nothing and that would have saved almost 3 million.
It could have been alot worse.
There is a good point about the lower end exempts not getting a raise cause they really deserve it.

These kind of news are just great!
Tell you why. I did not vote Vancouver Vision, or COPE or NPA in the last election. I gave my respect to Betty and the Work Less Party. And I knew none of them personally, and I have zilch party affiliation.
I voted out of common sense, which seems that most of you didn't have. So they did not win, but at least I did not suck up to the Unions or the Developers or the cheap Hollyhock propaganda. And boy I was right. You feel like sharing the same cell with the big hairy horny guy in Shawshank now? Good for you, bring the lubricant. You are going to need it even more.
As for Ballem's syndrom, it seems that when it comes to firing, cutting wages, freezing hiring, and intimidation she is a Tourette.

Perhaps exempt staff should wait until the last minute before informing her that none of us will be putting in any extra time or effort leading up to and during the Olympics....

Only pay bands 9 and higher got the 3% market adjustment (just as the union contract gave hefty market adjustments to some unionized staff).

The other 3% was in direct exchange for giving up EDO days and supplementary vacation. If you'd like the same, be sure to let your union reps know before the next negotiations.

Wow, the sky is falling. We are talking about 2% over 6 months. Net pay in the hundreds, big deal, I can make more one night playing poker!

Perhaps it is only 2% over 6 months,but it reflects a basic lack of respect. Ballem unilateraly imposed this cut with no discussion with exempt staff and after receiving survey results (that she requested) that indicated 86% opposed a cut.
It may be only 2%, but I don't see the Unions offering this option to save their members jobs....

Spoken like a true Vision socialist. If it's so little, why hasn't the union put the same offer on the table?

Yes, exempt staff lose hundreds of dollars each, all so Vision can avoid raising property taxes by 4 bucks on a $800,000 property.

But... It's Our Time to Shine!

Vancouver, the city of whiners.

Why should the unions put anything back on the table? They were on strike for 3 months while exempt staff worked overtime raking in the dough.

Come on exempt staff, show some balls and stage a little "wild cat" walkout!

Perhaps, ChickenLittle, you need to reach the other top posts from exempts that had to work OT while you guys were on strike. It's too bad that you have to write such negative remarks. Maybe you should go into the bargaining committee with Peter S.

Check out!

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