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The union representing Halifax Regional Municipality’s outside workers says it’s time to re-evaluate the increased reliance on private contractors in the winter months.

Over the last several years, the municipal workforce has decreased considerably, while the use of contractors has increased dramatically,” said John Stoddard, speaking for CUPE 108’s contracting out committee.

Recent public criticism about service levels by at least two HRM councilors needs to be viewed as a wakeup call for HRM taxpayers.”

CUPE points to a recent report conducted by Covenco Ltd. which reviewed the municipality’s snow and ice program.  Its findings include:

• Contractor costs have increased from $2 million in 1999 to $8.7 million in 2008. 
• The use of contractors has increased, but without the protocols necessary to manage the complete process.
• There has been a 24 per cent increase in lane kilometers in HRM since 1999 – from 2,880 to 3,550.
• Salt management is an ongoing issue throughout HRM…the process in place is burdened with the potential for errors.

Stoddard explains, “There is a difference of over 60 per cent between the lowest usage of salt per lane kilometer to the highest usage. This must be driving up HRM’s costs.”

Stoddard says the Covenco review also identifies “training shortfalls,” especially for contract supervisors, and highlights the need for more involvement of frontline staff and the union in the planning of operational changes.

A similar review of the snow and ice program was conducted in 2004 by the same company.