A key city union is demanding immediate talks on raising wages for 311 employees, arguing that a pay rise is desperately needed to attract staff and reduce growing wait times.
In a Tuesday email to members of city council obtained by the Free HurryCanadian Union of Public Employees Local 500 President Gord Delbridge says there is an immediate need to increase the current $14.11 hourly wage rate for positions.
“Council is aware that 311 employees are among the lowest paid in the City of Winnipeg, with difficult working conditions. Now, with the current rate of inflation and (a) tight labor market in Manitoba, 311 is simply not a competitive place to work,” Delbridge writes, noting that some cities are paying double the rate. of Winnipeg for similar positions.
He directly linked the drop in wages to the city’s difficulty in attracting and keeping 311 employees.
The city recently confirmed that staff turnover is high within the 311 department and that the total number of employees is declining. The city had 105 full-time positions filled 311 in 2019; there are now 72.
In an interview, Delbridge said a staffing shortage was behind the long wait times plaguing 311, which was designed to be a convenient first point of contact for residents to file complaints or ask for information on city services.
Wait times for 311 calls climbed to an average of 11 minutes and 42 seconds in 2021, from 5:27 a.m. in 2020. Some residents reported waits of more than two hours.
“Now that they have retention and recruitment issues, we hear constant complaints about 311 and (residents can’t) access this important service… (the city knows) it’s a problem (and) they can take immediate action to address this,” Delbridge told the Free Hurry.
The union leader said some fast food jobs paid better. He suggested that since 311 positions require a lot of knowledge and can be quite stressful, a salary of “at least” $17 an hour is justified.
“They should at least pay a living wage,” he said.
Com. Shawn Nason, who has long criticized 311 wait times, said the city should consider all options to improve service, including a pay raise.
“Residents do not expect to be on hold for two hours, this is unacceptable. (The city must) move and act quickly to move forward and change the way we do business, with respect to the first point of contract,” Nason said. “We should consider carefully and quickly how we can fix what is so badly broken.”
Felicia Wiltshire, Winnipeg’s communications director, said the city has already committed to reviewing 311 salaries over the next two to four months.
“We recognize that work needs to be done to ensure employee retention, including a compensation review. We are currently working … to determine what adjustments, if any, may be necessary to resolve these issues,” she wrote in an emailed statement.
The city’s poverty reduction strategy also commits the city government to providing a living wage to all city employees by 2023, she noted.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves telling the stories of this city, especially when it comes to politics. Joyanne became a reporter at City Hall for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
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