Breaking News: City of Vancouver lays off 44 staff, more coming

Post by Daniel Fontaine in ,

12 comments

partied-out
A Vancouver city staffer reacts to getting his 2010 Games invitation and layoff notice simultaneously

The story of what's happening at City Hall right now is changing by the moment. We've learned that 44 staff were laid off on Thursday, and more folks will be marched to the exits soon. Stay tuned...

These are busy days at 12th & Cambie. In the west wing of City Hall, the City Manager's office is determining who will get access to $300,000 worth of Olympic tickets taxpayers purchased a few months ago. Meanwhile in the Oval Office down the hall, Mayor Robertson's staff are putting out their best dishes and flatware to begin wining and dining some of the world's elite.

The whole affair will be exhausting as there will be endless parties and late night receptions for the 17 days of the Games. Rest assured that our FOI department will be working overtime when this is all over to help provide our readers with some accountability regarding the money spent schmoozing dignitaries.

Meanwhile, the City Manager revealed last week that a big chunk of City Hall is actually going to shut down during the Games. Need a dog permit and can only get down to 12th and Cambie in the morning? Well, you're out of luck. Are you a developer and need access to the Planning Department staff? You might want to head over the LiveCity Yaletown pavilion where they'll be patting down patrons and managing the body scanners.

In the midst of all this Olympic build up, Vision chose to send around a memo to all staff that the pre-layoff notices have been issued and they will have 60 days to contemplate their future. Here is an excerpt from that internal staff memo:

To be clear, our goal is to have as few people leave the organization as possible, and we will work with the Vacancy Management Committee, managers and Unions to find new opportunities that may arise for any impacted employees. We will continue to communicate regularly with you as the different phases of this work unfold.

Communicating this kind of news at any time is not easy, and some people will question why we are doing this so close to the Olympics. We have discussed this at length and it is clear that uncertainty is one of the most demoralizing aspects to changes like this. Given that we communicated the likelihood of staff impacts in December, many employees have been working in a state of uncertainty since then. We felt strongly that we needed to provide the information regarding job impact as soon as our analysis was complete.

Predictably, the timing of this memo from Ballem has gone over like a lead balloon, and many staff are indeed asking, why now? From a political standpoint, it might seem like bad timing. That is, unless no one is watching. And with the Games coming down, this story is not generating any headlines.

Robertson and company's saving grace is the fact CUPE has remained silent during this whole cost-cutting exercise. If the union continues to stay mum, Vision will may be able to wine, dine and cut staff all at the same time. This is clearly something an NPA government would have never been afforded the luxury of doing. What follows is a complete copy of Ballem's email to staff:

From: COV Broadcast Server
Sent: Thu 21/01/2010 5:32 PM
To: All Staff (COV) - DL
Subject: CoV Broadcast: ALL STAFF EMAIL

ALL STAFF EMAIL

January 21, 2010

On December 18, 2009, Council approved the proposed 2010 budget. In that budget, staff recommended three ways to meet our budget shortfall:

A combination of revenue increases Strategic implementation of Vancouver Services Review (VSR) programs which will provide some savings A number of service level adjustments In our December 1, 2009 report to Council, we estimated that approximately 167 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) in the organization would be impacted by these strategies with approximately 109 FTEs coming from service adjustments and 58 associated with VSR strategies. At that time, we committed to communicating those impacts to staff as soon as possible, and today I can give you more information. 

STAFF IMPACTED BY THE VSR

The VSR is currently in the early stages of implementing some of the Council approved projects and at this time there are no VSR related position impacts.

STAFF IMPACTED BY SERVICE ADJUSTMENTS

Our goal has always been to have as few people as possible leave our organization by finding alternative positions within the City for impacted staff. In December, we estimated 109 positions would be impacted through service adjustments. Since we tabled the budget, Engineering has identified an additional 12 positions due to a decreased work load in Equipment Services. This brings the total number of positions potentially impacted by service adjustments to approximately 120.

The service adjustments identified in the budget for three areas -- the Bloedel Conservatory, Children’s Farmyard and the Graphics department -- are currently on hold at this time as there is more work to be done related to Council and Board direction to pursue opportunities for alternate sources of funding and/or partnerships. The number of FTEs potentially impacted at a future date is approximately 10.

Our Vacancy Management Committee, composed of a number of senior level leaders from across the organization, has been working in partnership with managers to identify further opportunities for potential placements of impacted staff. Through this work, we have been able to reduce the total number of impacted staff from approximately 120 to less than half that number. We hope that we can further minimize the impact in the following months.

Today, 44 staff will be receiving 60 day notification that their position with the City is being eliminated as a result of service adjustments. This is not a layoff notice under the Collective Agreement; rather it is Section 64 notice under the Employment Standards Act. Section 64 requires 60 day notice when there are 50 or more employees in one location being terminated.

While the number of employees being impacted at any one location is much lower than 50, we feel the 60 days gives impacted staff and managers additional time to consider and evaluate other opportunities within the organization.

To be clear, our goal is to have as few people leave the organization as possible, and we will work with the Vacancy Management Committee, managers and Unions to find new opportunities that may arise for any impacted employees. We will continue to communicate regularly with you as the different phases of this work unfold.

Communicating this kind of news at any time is not easy, and some people will question why we are doing this so close to the Olympics. We have discussed this at length and it is clear that uncertainty is one of the most demoralizing aspects to changes like this. Given that we communicated the likelihood of staff impacts in December, many employees have been working in a state of uncertainty since then. We felt strongly that we needed to provide the information regarding job impact as soon as our analysis was complete.

We have informed the Unions who have impacted members of this decision, and we are working closely with them to make sure that our actions honour our statutory and Collective Agreement obligations.

While the number of impacted staff at this time is much smaller than was expected, we will continue to strive over the next few months to reduce it even more. What I can tell you is that we are going to support our employees through this time. Our HR transition team will work with impacted employees, their managers and the Human Resource Consultants to ensure our employees receive the support and guidance they need.

I know all of you will support your colleagues impacted by these challenges. We have attached a document with FAQs and if you have any further questions please, reach out to your manager or Human Resources Consultant. For managers with staff who do not have access to email please print off this document and post it in your common areas.


Penny Ballem 
City Manager 
City of Vancouver 
penny.ballem@vancouver.ca 
Tel 604.873.7626
Fax 604.873.7641

- post by Daniel

12 Comments

NICE!

Show them the door, but not before working them night and day through the Olympics.

Seems like City Leadership subscribes to the Despair.com school of leadership:

"Sometimes the best solution to a morale problem is just to fire the unhappy people"

If they fired all the unhappy people at Vancouver City Hall, all we'd have left if Ballem and a few of her cronies. This is the worst morale I've seen at city hall and years, and it has nothing to do with the 44 layoffs. Robertson (like Sullivan) will pay the price in the next election if he doesn't shift gears soon. Now if only the npa could get their act together.

Lowest morale in years? For which workers the exempt managers that have dream jobs and live in point grey mansions or the unionized outside workers? Baring a major strike or scandal I don't see the juice man. Paying much of a price In the next election

Do you work in the mayor's office? Or do you just like drinking koolaid? Get your head out of the sand. Juiceman is a joke and everyone is whispering about it at city hall behind his back.

Apart from working staff to bone during the olympics, don't forget that many mgmt staff had to clean toilets and other menial tasks during the strike. The same staff that are now being marched out the door.

Way to go CoV. Good luck attracting competent capable staff.

Okay they had to clean toilets for 60-80 dollars an hour, I don't know about you but I wouldn't mind having that gig. I did't feel all that sorry for the managers. Menial tasks u say try doing doing it for $8/hour

You're pretty naive then, aren't you if you think that cleaning toilets AFTER WORK for $$ is worth more then spending time with our families. You don't get it nor will you, by the sounds of it. Morale sucks big time. You may work for the city and be in a corner or just be sitting behind the computer with lots of criticism towards the exempt staff and not have a clue about how things REALLY are.

There's lots of talk out there from other munis not to come to Vancouver because of all the crap being dished out. Ultimately, it's the taxpayers who are affected.

I don't think to many people out there feel too bad for city of Vancouver managers they have dream jobs, I'd like to see them survive in the private sector and as for their families they get to go to ivy league schools, go on fabulous Vacations and live in big beautiful Homes.

Hey, Katzenberg. That sounds like sour grapes from someone who hasn't taken the time to get a good education and develop the required skills in order to deserve that "dream job" with the City. In fact they used to be dream jobs - jobs that had a positive impact on the livability of the City, jobs that were rewarding, and jobs that many took to be "civil servants". Emphasis on servants. The pay was reasonable, but certainly did not compare to professional peers in the public sector. We didn't take these jobs to become rich. But, manager bashing seems to be the flavor of the day for those who have little understanding of the actual jobs and sacrifices that have to be made. However, under the new regime, professional staff are disrespected, most visibly through the unfair reduction on a wage increase that was previously offered and agreed upon. It really doesn't matter that people like you think that we should be grateful for our "dream jobs". What matters is that the current exempt staff are losing, or have lost, that pride in our organization and feeling of value. If that translates to exempt staff leaving for greener pastures, it will be the City that is the worse for it.

Exempt and pissed...hear, hear! You've summed it up well.

I'm with Rebecca! Vancouver USED to be a great place to work. Now it is the armpit of Metro Vancouver. The only people willing to move into jobs here are those whose political pedigree blind them to the craziness of their surroundings. If people get fired after prettyboy Robertson is given the boot, they will deserve evertything that's coming to them.

At least one long term exempt manager I know of was marched out the door with no notice, no chance to redeploy elsewhere, no nothing.

Contrary to Ballem's "nothing will happen for 60 days" BS.

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