The labour organization that represents Charlottetown City Hall workers has applied to join the Union of Public Sector Employees (UPSE) amid a slew of recent staffing issues that have erupted at city hall.
The Voluntary Association of City Employees (VACE) has an application before the province’s labour relations board for a transfer of jurisdiction to become part of UPSE.
Karen Jackson, president of UPSE, said she could not say why the city employees want to join their larger union, but did say a decision on the application is expected soon.
“I can’t comment on VACE’s concerns because it’s before the labour board, but we can confirm that we are in touch with them and there are labour relations matters and it’s currently before the labour board.”
No one from VACE would provide comment for this story.
However several sources, including three city councillors, confirmed to The Guardian there have been a number grievances filed by VACE during the last six months, which marks a notable increase for the labour organization that previously had not filed grievances against the city in the last number of years.
Internal concerns have also been raised about several senior level positions that have been filled with no competitive process.
Joey MacKinnon was recently hired as a public works superintendent, Stephen MacFadyen was hired as fleet manager and Scott Adams was promoted to assistant manager of public works.
None of these positions were advertised internally or externally prior to these individuals being hired.
Terry MacLeod, chairman of the city’s human resources committee, says this is because they are only temporarily filling the positions.
MacKinnon and MacFadyen were hired on a contract basis, which MacLeod says does not have to be advertised. Adams’ promotion to assistant manager of public works is “temporary” as well, MacLeod said.
All three positions will eventually be advertised as required by city policy and collective agreements, MacLeod added.
But he was unsure as to when that would happen, saying this would depend on a number of factors, including the terms of the individuals’ contracts.
It was necessary to have people filling these positions on an interim basis to ensure proper functioning of the departments, MacLeod said.
“When a position becomes available, you have to get somebody in there right away, right? So you put someone in there for a period of time until you get to the process of sitting down, doing interviews and actually posting the job, the whole nine yards.”
As for how these individuals were chosen or how the terms of their contracts were determined, MacLeod said this was done through their departments, adding this “has been normal practice for years and years.”
“Mr. (Peter) Kelly wouldn’t do anything without clearing it with the mayor first. You can’t look at one without the other. They’re tied together.” – Ward 6 Coun. Bob Doiron
As for the increase in grievances being filed by city hall staff, MacLeod attributed this to a number of internal changes at city hall.
The changes are aimed at making the city corporation more efficient, although MacLeod said he could not recall exact details of the changes.
“Some people, because they’ve been doing the same thing for the last 20 years, they feel they shouldn’t have to do anything differently,” he said.
“It’s just everyday stuff that all businesses go through, and anytime you have change people usually get upset… Some people don’t like change, so their avenue is to grieve it.”
But the grievances are not the only human resources issues currently causing headaches at city hall.
The Guardian has confirmed a human rights complaint has been filed against the City of Charlottetown. Blair Kinch, a public works superintendent, filed the complaint on the ground of disability.
Brenda Pickard, executive director of the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission, says she could not provide any further details about the complaint and Kinch did not respond to a request for comment.
The Guardian also confirmed Friday the city’s human resources manager, Mandy Feuerstack, gave notice this week of her intention to leave the city’s employ.
MacLeod says he does not believe these internal issues indicate any trends of concern.
But numerous sources, including several city staffers who spoke to The Guardian for this story disagreed with this assessment.
They pointed to CAO Peter Kelly as a key figure at the centre of much of the internal strife.
“You can’t have one man running the whole show,” said one city employee who asked not to be identified for fear of losing their job.
“There’s no avenues for anybody to go.”
Ward 6 Coun. Bob Doiron says he too has heard concerns from city employees, noting especially a fear they believe they face in speaking out against things they do not agree with that may happen at city hall.
“I do have some of the employees coming to me… they say it’s coming from the top,” he said.
But he believes Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee is as responsible as Kelly when it comes to controversial decisions at city hall.
“Mr. Kelly wouldn’t do anything without clearing it with the mayor first,” Doiron said.
“You can’t look at one without the other. They’re tied together.”’
Doiron has previously voiced criticism about the decision to hire Kelly as CAO of the City of Charlottetown.
Lee did not respond to a telephone request for comment from The Guardian Friday.
Kelly declined two requests for an interview this week, saying only “the city does not discuss or make comment on personnel matters or issues in/or through the media.”