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City of Windsor workers want higher wages and remote work flexibility: Report

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City employees are not being compensated fairly and want more flexibility to work from home, according to the head of the union representing more than 1,300 City of Windsor workers.

Those comments came in response to the Retention and Employee Experience Project — an extensive report put together by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), the city's independent internal audit service provider, on how to better retain and bring in city workers.

Its findings were presented to Windsor city councillors Monday.

"There is much more work to do on work-life balance and flexibility," said Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 543 President David Petten.

According to Petten, the feedback that unionized workers provided as part of the report was lumped in with comments from non-unionized employees.

The results was variances in the accuracy of the feedback, Petten added.

For example, while the PwC report said 23 per cent of city workers feel they receive fair wage compensation, Petten said a recent survey of his membership show just nine per cent actually feel that way.

Following a question from Coun. Kieran McKenzie regarding the major concern from non-union workers being wage compensation, Deputy City Solicitor Dana Paladino said those concerns can only be addressed through budgeting and bargaining.

"If you go to any workplace, I think they would say, 'I want to make more money," said Paladino. "The focus of this [report] was, aside from monetary compensation, which we know is going to be an issue, what other tools are out there to make people want to work here and love coming to work here every day."

Some of those negative factors which workers find problematic, according to the PwC report, include a lack of employee well-being, high workload, a lack of recognition for their work, and constrained career advancement opportunities.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens also responded to the clear desire expressed by members that they want the flexibility to work from home when they can.

“It's fair to say myself and some members of council are split on that. How do you engage with employees when they're working from home? That's part of this," said Dilkens, before acknowledging the other side of the argument. "If I can sit at home and work from home all day and someone's going to pay me $20,000 more a year, why wouldn't I go to them if they're going to let me work from home? So we want to make sure we find the balance...I'm not sure that we're doing it perfectly today but we're willing to fine tune as necessary."

Another key finding from the PwC report is that many employees report their current work schedule of 33.75 hours per week does not meet requirements when applying for loans and mortgages, forcing employees to take on supplementary employment.

"I would suggest roughly around 70 per cent of our members that were in that category have now been increased to the 35-hour minimum that we were looking for. But there is variation amongst the department," said Petten. "As a gender equity issue, the majority of people that are in that 33.75-hour category are female workers."

According to Windsor's Chief Administrative Officer Joe Mancina, moving city employees to a 35-hour work week is "certainly something we're striving to do."

"We've made tremendous progress, albeit some of them are pilots," said Mancina. "But as you can understand, we want to ensure that the services that we provide to our residents are not impacted."

Petten, however, questioned whether or not workers who are granted 35-hour work weeks will have them for the long haul.

"There are other work areas or departments that have only signed on until the end of this year. So it's currently a temporary measure which causes angst amongst my members because the concern or the possibility is that it's going to be taken away from them again," said Petten.

The full Retention and Employee Experience report can be viewed on page 989 of the April 22 Windsor city council agenda.

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