The Sault Ste. Marie Professional Firefighters Association Local 529 obtained a package of emails through a Freedom of Information request that show the machinations that led, despite concerns expressed by the director of human resources, Peter Niro, to the setting of a starting wage of $103,344 for two public educators and a mechanic officer.
This is the third of a three-part series providing excerpts from the flow of emails between city staff, with major emphasis on those from Niro, whose questions and comments seem to point to a process gone horribly wrong.
And there will, of course, be the occasional interjection from yours truly:
September 7 Tiffany Fleming to Mike Figliola, Peter Niro, Paul Milosevich, assistant chief
I have attached a revised job description for public educator as there were a few discrepancies and inconsistencies with the one provided.
One clarification still required is the job grade.
The original job description indicates 102%. However, the request indicates 115%. Can you please confirm.
Once confirmed, please update the job description and provide to me with your signature. I can then have the human resources and CAO signatures completed accordingly.
Paul, Please review the attached job posting and advise if any changes are required.
Once approved and wage is determined, we will have posted asap.
October 21, 2016 Paul Milosevich to Tiffany Fleming, Peter Niro, cc: Mike Figliola.
Subject: Wage for Public Education Officer.
Having flushed out the error on the job posting concerning the wage range for the public educator officer positions and potential action moving forward, I discussed the matter with Chief Figliola. The chief acknowledges the ‘wage range’ error as a typo, but is comfortable in the fact that it does state the job pays 115% of first class.
He is prepared to defend that moving forward and has directed me to continue moving forward in our process with the applicants next Tuesday and not repost the job internally. At an appropriate time, we will inform these current applicants that they will indeed be paid, and start, at the higher range equal to 115% of first class….. $103,344 without a step system.
Moving forward the error and concept will be explained to the SSMPFFA (Sault Ste. Marie Professional Firefighters Association) that these are new positions and as such were slated to start at 115% without job steps. They are high-end jobs and likely would not attract qualified teaching professionals at a lower range rate. In the future, a 90, 95, 100% step system can be negotiated with the SSMPFFA, if required.
October 23, 2016, Peter Niro to Paul Milosevich; Tiffany Fleming and Mike Figliola
Re: Wage for Public Education Officer.
That’s not going to work folks. We need to know what the actual wage is and if we need to repost then we stop the process. These are new positions that historically we never had which is why we wanted the posting confirmed by the department/division. Further they are bargaining unit positions which we committed to the association a stepped grid.
Until that is agreed upon we should not be proceeding. Any number of grievance can be triggered and or lawsuits from external candidates that I’m not prepared to expose the corporation to. Let’s get the grid decided and repost if it’s different than what we agreed was reasonable.
October 24, 2016 Mike Figliola to Peter Niro, Paul Milosevich, Tiffany Fleming
RE: Wage for public education officer.
The new position was slotted into the existing collective agreement grid, similar to training at 115% with no steps, This was decided at the outset. The posting quoted the 115% then in error placed an incorrect range. This does not include 3-6-9 either. Not sure why there is a need to repost when it can easily be explained by a typo error.
Let’s meet to discuss.
October 25, 2016 Tiffany Fleming to Peter Niro.
Subject: Public Educator – wage posted
FYI. Wage posted was $91,858 – $99,946 annually, not $103K.
October 25, 2016, Peter Niro to Mike Figliola, Paul Milosevich, cc: Tiffany Fleming.
Subject: Public Educator – wage posted
We need to repost
October 26, Mike Figliola to Peter Niro, Paul Milosevich, Tiffany Fleming.
Re: Public educator – wage posted
At this point in the process, we are ready to select the successful candidates. If you believe this is paramount then repost internally. If we get any additional candidates in addition to the original post we will review them. I think this is a moot point and do not understand. Clearly we stated the wage class and the range was a typo, a mistake that should not negate the posting. While you voiced your concerns your last email said in the end it was a department call.
Are we playing chess or checkers, you are processing us to death !!! (tongue firmly planted in cheek).
This realignment of staff began August 24 and was to be completed by September 30; we still have two more positions to fill, it is bogging down.
October 26, 2016 Peter Niro to Mike Figliola.
Re: Public Educator – wage posted
I hear you, Mike, but unlike the mechanic position which we as the employer should be grieving (being paid more than the posted rate is a violation), we have external candidates we need to offer positions to and a potential internal candidate who is qualified who may apply given the new rate.
So here are my suggestions:
1. We proceed and you take responsibility for the fallout;
2. We contact the association and get their commitment not to grieve this posting;
3. We repost internally only and complete the process with the appropriate salary and weekly hours.
Human resources recommends option 3 given the salary and hours per week were inaccurate. This will not delay our current process.
December 14, 2016, Peter Niro to Malcolm White, cc: Al Horsman
Subject: HR Reference – Pub Educators
Gentlemen, you have my written recommendation on this issue so I won’t repeat it. Certainly we should consider a rebuttal as it implies that human resources isn’t doing their job when in fact I agree with many of the assertions but the public now will have the impression that we have not performed our function or due diligence. This, as you are aware, is not the case. I advised a lower starting salary within the collective agreement and questioned why we required two vs. one position.
I appreciate that this is an operational attack from another angle but it unfairly sheds a tainted light on our corporate role and function.
December 16, 2016, Peter Niro to CAO Horsman, Malcolm White, Mike Figliola.
Re: Concern – recent hiring public educators starting salary level.
Just a couple of things:
We can’t change their rate so not sure if minor latitude is applicable unless through bargaining we can negotiate a reduction to the FPO level. But certainly that potential exists. Also I would like to see some attention to the human resource reference in the article to the effect that discussions and recommendations were held and that the final decision was operational. That is factual and does mitigate the perception that human resources was not performing their role.
After having read the emails, we still really don’t know the thinking behind providing such big starting salaries to the public educators and mechanic officer.
We can see the salaries were questioned by Niro to no avail. Instead of seeing them cut back, we see them increased, as the summer of 2016 progresses, from 102% of a first class firefighter’s wage to 115%, from $91,661 to $103,344.
What was the thought process, if any, behind bumping the wages nearly $12,000?
In an email on Oct. 21, 2016, Milosevich offered that “they are high-end jobs and likely would not attract qualified teaching professionals at a lower range rate. In the future, a 90, 95, 100% step system can be negotiated with the SSMPFFA, if required,” he said.
But the two who were hired as public educators, one has been let go and considering the reasoning we are left to wonder why both weren’t, were supply teachers. This is not to say that they were not qualified but, considering what was being offered was a full-time job, it wouldn’t have taken anywhere near a wage of $103,344 to have attracted them.
Actually, the whole process of setting the wage seemed confusing. It originally appeared on a job posting as 102% of a firefighter’s wage but later it had both the 102% and a wage range of $91,858 to $99,946. The 102%, as you will have noted, was later changed to 115%.
The fire chief didn’t see any problem with this, passing the wage range off as a typo. It wasn’t. A typo is misplaced letters in a word. This was a mistake, plain and simple.
The chief also said, “The new position was slotted into the existing collective agreement grid, similar to training at 115% with no steps. This was decided at the outset.
I don’t know what he sees as being “the outset.” The 115% didn’t surface until September 2016. The 102% had been in play from April to September.
Milosevich suggested a step system could be negotiated with the SSMPFFA if required. It should be required. If it had happened in this instance, taxpayers would have been saved a lot of money from a lower wage being negotiated by the union.
As it stands, there is another shoe still to drop. The firefighters are still working on a contract that was up in 2014. Whatever they get when a new contract is finally negotiated will apply to the public educator, training and mechanical officers as well, so these wages probably will increase into the $110,000 range.
I realize council does not concern itself with the day-to-day operations at city hall.
But I trust it has learned from this exercise that it just shouldn’t turn over the keys of the vault to senior staff.
Maybe it is time its finance committee became something more than being that in name only.
Doug Millroy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.