Part 1 of 3| Emails Show Total Disregard for Public Purse

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On Oct. 26, 2015, council approved a recommendation from Fire Chief Mike Figliola that saw approval in principle given to the reallocation of up to 20 front-line firefighter positions through attrition and the addition of 12 to Emergency Medical Services (Ambulance Services).

But included in the chief’s report was a recommendation that council didn’t address but approved, the creation of five new positions within the fire service – two public education officers, one training officer, one mechanic and one emergency planning officer.

This is an oversight council now undoubtedly regrets because the wages to be paid, which were not included in the initial report as they had not been set, ballooned to $103,344 a year for the public educator and mechanic (officer) positions.

A package of emails obtained by the Sault Ste. Marie Professional Firefighters Association Local 529 reveal some interesting commentary among city staff leading to the setting of these salaries, which at the best could be considered charitable and at the worst irresponsible.

They were far beyond what the union would have been prepared to negotiate and what Human Resources Director Peter Niro would have recommended.

From what I have learned over researching this issue over the past few weeks, the union would have been prepared to accept a starting wage of 55% of the $89,864 a first-class firefighter makes; Niro, for his part, is quoted in the emails as suggesting the wages be low-balled.

As it stands, the supply teachers who got the jobs at the $103,344 starting wage with no steps must have thought they had escaped dying on their way to heaven.

In any event, I thought some of you might be as interested as I in the content of these emails so I am going to provide some excerpts over the next three days, interspersed with some comments of my own, of course.

I specifically think it is interesting to see how the pay for the new job of public educator, to start and with no steps, was established as 102% of a first-class firefighter’s wage through April, July and part of September of 2016 suddenly morphed into a job grade paying, still with no steps, 115% before the month of September was out.

Foremost among the qualifications required for the high-paying position were: “Public fire and life safety officer certificate program at the Ontario Fire College with five years full-time experience as a public educator in the Fire Service and/or registered with the Ontario College of Teachers in good standing.

The mechanic-officer position was accorded the same 115% but in the report the fire chief presented to council, only a mechanic, not a mechanic officer, was listed as coming on board.

I have left in all the names of those involved in the emails but have blocked out some who were simply mentioned as being in jobs or as having held certain jobs.

Let’s begin:

July 19, 2016 Mike Figliola to Tiffany Fleming, recruitment and training coordinator with the city.

Good Morning Tiffany,

I need to start to develop a job description for the new position of Director of Community Services. I should probably start with the old Commissioner of Community Services job description.

Also I am looking for existing job descriptions for the following:

Deputy Chief – Fire Suppression; Deputy Chief- Manager- Emergency Medical Systems;

Manager of Quality Assurance- EMS; Deputy Chief- Support Services; Deputy Chief- Fire Prevention and Public Education.

I will be updating these as well as producing job descriptions for four new positions. Once I have the initial draft completed, I will forward them on for your review and recommendations.

August 09, 2016, Figliola to Fleming

Non-Union Change of Classification

As part of my realignment continuing forward, a number of positions will be reclassified in addition to new positions.

Please send me the necessary form to effect the classification/salary change so I can get the requisite signatures completed.

August 15, 2016, Peter Niro to Fleming and Ida Bruno, labour relations coordinator.

Realignment

Malcolm (White, deputy CAO and city clerk corporate services):

As discussed I have concerns about the proposal attached from a procedural perspective, a cost perspective and pay equity perspective,

As you may or may not be aware we are already dealing with legacy issues regarding Job Evaluation, Specifically:

  • Changed Assistant City Solicitor from Job Class 8 to Job Class 9 – treated as a new position therefore red-circling (where the job rate of the salary range is less than the person in the job is currently paid, the person’s pay is frozen until the job range catches up) applies as per our policy.
  • Changed Office Supervisor (Legal and Engineering) Job 2 to Job Class 4 – again treated as new positions but more accurately should be treated as changed positions. These two changed positions now put us at a distinct disadvantage when dealing with any potential pay equity challenges. This was not in accordance with our job evaluation policy and procedure,

The attached proposal compounds and mimics some of the above furthering my concerns.

The main concern is procedural. In the past and most recent I had a discussion about having all staff change forms (replacement forms) come to human resources first before proceeding to the CAO, That was agreed to by the CAO given the recent move of Legal to hire a Job Class 5 from what was originally a Job Class 3. In fact, the most recent changes in fire are on an old version of the form and will cost about $110,000 in salary increases.

Historically HR was always involved in history and procedure when replacing or changing positions. This appears to have been overlooked recently. In fact I have not even seen the Job Descriptions for “vetting purposes” but Mike and Al have already signed them and presented them to our recruitment coordinator,

I was aware of the need to move assistant fire chiefs to deputy fire chiefs – Job Class 8 to Job Class 9 due to compression issues. I’m fine with that part but I believe I should have been part of the discussion. Also they still need to be reviewed through our job evaluation process for integrity purposes.

The additional positions requiring a posting and/or a salary change are both bargaining unit and non-union positions. Specifically:

  • Public education officers-to be paid the same as fire prevention officers….not sure about the

equality in pay argument here… again I would recommend low balling until we can negotiate with the union;

  • Assistant chief emergency management – Job Class 3 to Job Class 7 – again seems like a large jump in salary for basically the same job responsibility;
  • Emergency Planning and Research Officer-Job Class 3 currently to Job Class 5 (basically xxxxxx’s old job) – not sure of the rationale for the change – again job description signed and authorized;
  • Old quality assurance position Job Class 6 to deputy chief EMS (Professional Standards Training and Development) Job Class 9 – DSSAB (District Social Services Administration Board) has this position in-house.

I think some at city hall may have considered this email as a case of Niro simply whining about being left out of the decision-making process.

But I thought he made some salient points.

He questioned boosting the position of Assistant Chief Emergency Management from a Job Class 3 to Job Class 7, saying it seemed like a large jump in salary for basically the same job responsibility.

He questioned upping the classifications of old quality assurance position Job, Class 6, to deputy chief EMS, Job Class 9, a position DSSAB has in-house, and the emergency planning and research officer position from Job Class 3 to Job Class 5.

He questioned paying public education officers the same as fire prevention officers, 102% of a first-class firefighter’s wage, but they ended up being paid at 115%.

So much for his suggestion of low-balling until the job could be negotiated with the union. As you know from my column of March 4, the union was never approached about these changes.

Niro figures the changes in fire will add up to a yearly cost of about $110,000, a figure that is probably light in that a later email he said $140,000. But that, if nothing else, probably would have caught council’s attention if it had ever gotten to see it.

Doug Millroy can be reached at dmillroy@gmail.com.

 

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