Staffing issues to be considered if amalgamation moves forward

Some redundencies may see lay-offs

A transition manager would be left with much of the task of determining which staff members would stay and which would go if voters in Duncan and North Cowichan opt for amalgamation on June 23.

Each municipality has their own managers and routine staff members, and some roles may become redundant if Duncan and North Cowichan choose to amalgamate.

Duncan Mayor Phil Kent said there has been some discussions on the issue in preparation for the referendum, but it’s too premature at this stage to say definitively what would happen to the staff of each municipality under amalgamation.

“The province has made hiring a transition manager mandatory if the voters decide to amalgamate, and the manager will work with our staffing groups to help us determine how best to combine our work force to work together,” he said.

“The final pieces of the terms of reference for this process have yet to be decided on. There’s still a tremendous amount of work that has to be done in many areas in preparation for this vote.”

North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure also acknowledged that many staffing issues will have to be considered if the voters choose to amalgamate.

“We would have different unions, contracts and pay levels in both municipalities to consider and consult on,” he said.

“This is one of the most difficult part of the process for current staff but it’s a fact that will have to be dealt with if we move forward with amalgamation. But it will have to dealt with carefully because people’s work lives will be on the line.”

Lefebure said concerns about possible amalgamation are already causing some problems finding new workers in North Cowichan.

“There’s no doubt that the uncertainty caused by the potential of amalgamation is making it more difficult for us to find more people to fill positions,” he said

A spokesman for CUPE Local 358 said the union has few issues with amalgamation.

Rob Hewitt, a bargaining committee spokesman for the union which represents approximately 200 workers that provide community services in North Cowichan and Duncan, said CUPE supports the democratic process and the right for the public to decide on how people are governed.

But he said if the voters in the two communities decide to amalgamate in the referendum, then work will have to be done to determine what, if any, implications that will have for union members.

“Our members provide all the public services in both North Cowichan and Duncan and I expect that will continue, no matter what the outcome of the referendum,” Hewitt said.

“We haven’t heard from either municipality yet regarding plans after the referendum, but we have a good working relationship with both and we expect we will be fully informed of the details through the process.”

Hewitt said most union staff in both municipalities already have full work loads and he doesn’t expect that to change, regardless of the outcome of the vote.

But he said there could be some efficiencies that might be considered in some roles where two sets of workers are not required.

“In some of these cases, some people are soon retiring and there are other opportunities and means that would be available to help ease the transition to one municipality with one set of staff,” Hewitt said.

“There is a whole legal process in place with rules around these issues and we would be happy to discuss the details with the municipalities, if required.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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