Tbnewswatch Local News
2014-05-23 at 4:42PM

Seasonal problems

By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

THUNDER BAY -- The way nearly two dozen city seasonal workers were treated has both the mayor and the union representing those workers concerned.

Seasonal roads workers are typically hired for about six months to do utility cuts, fix potholes and other labour duties. But after the season started two weeks late this year, around 23 workers were told that they would only be hired until Aug. 1 because the city had contracted out its utility cuts this year.

"That is a pot of money that our seasonal workers are paid out of," CUPE Local 87 president Marie Dean said.

Workers were told about the late start, leaving them without income for two weeks, but expected to make up that money during the season. Dean said that also means they won't be able to find work later in the season because other seasonal work will have already been taken.

'It's dried up and it's not really available to them," she said.

Mayor Keith Hobbs said he found out about the issues when upset workers inundated him with emails and some senior workers came to his office to discuss their concerns.

"I don't think they were treated properly," he said. "That's not the way we should be doing business."
Those workers have schooling or families to pay for. If they had known the season would be so short, they could have found other work.

Also from the city's side with $40 million in infrastructure spending this year, Hobbs said roadwork needs all the help it can get. He's already had a meeting with city manager Tim Commisso about the issue and will discuss it again Monday morning.

"That is one department that I think needs beefing up right now," he said.

While there is a maximum number of days in the collective agreement for seasonal workers, there is no minimum. But Dean said her members should have been given fair notice.

"Morally we have to be responsible here too," she said.

She's concerned that the city will keep contracting out services at the expense of her members and wants to meet with the city's human resources department.

"I am hearing rumblings about a lot of contracting out happening," she said.

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