CUPE municipal workers in Richmond Hill, ON are pleased the town is expanding its windrow clearing services and bringing the work in-house. A windrow is the snow ridge left by plows at the end of a driveway. In March, town council voted to clear windrows from all residential driveways, and do it with municipal workers, members of CUPE 905.
CUPE 905 municipal unit Chair Doug Hume presented to a March 25, 2019 council meeting on the value of keeping the new jobs public. At that meeting, council voted 8-1 in favour of expanding the winter windrow clearance program town-wide. The decision means adding 40 permanent full-time staff and converting 40 current seasonal staff into permanent full-time positions.
The town had been considering providing windrow clearing to residents – a service not previously delivered by municipal workers. A limited service, delivered by a contractor, was available for seniors and people with disabilities. Council asked city staff to provide them with a report on options for the 2020 budget. Staff analyzed the cost of four options:
- Keep offering contracted-out windrow clearing to seniors and people with disabilities.
- Expand the existing contracted-out service to a limited number of residents.
- Provide windrow clearing services for all residential driveways in the town, using a contractor.
- Provide windrow clearing services for all residential driveways in the town, using city staff.
City staff recommended providing the service town-wide with in-house staff. The staff report highlights significant cost savings and other benefits of providing the services in-house. City staff specifically listed as a benefit that “seasonal staff conversion will create efficiencies in planning and scheduling annual training programs, create incentive for staff to advance within the organization and improve morale.”
At the same meeting, Hume made a presentation highlighting the benefits of in-house services.
“It was our point of view that whatever council’s decision was, we would lobby for the fourth option. Council saw the advantages of the fourth option, and we pushed it too – stable work force, fully trained staff that you’d never have to train again, a more dedicated team,” says Hume.
CUPE 905 is pleased that council and management took the lead in exploring different options. Hume says that for years the local had been flagging issues with the high number of seasonal workers at labour-management meetings and during bargaining. CUPE’s concerns with precarious, seasonal employment included the constant training and recruitment that the town had to do.
“What may have helped was us having a relatively open and honest relationship with management. It’s only with that relationship, that decisions can be made that work for both sides. We’ve been working on building positive relationships over the past few years, and I know that’s a tough one for some locals,” says Hume.
CUPE 905 has brought three services back in-house over the past six years: water main break repairs, a sidewalk clearing program that was contracted out for six years, and now windrow clearing.
The city is in the process of hiring the first 40 employees, and the following 40 in the next month. All hiring will be completed by the fall.