City senior staff compensation issue dominates forum

The Prince George Citizen has hammered the city over the issue of compensation, including overtime pay, for senior city staff, so it was no surprise that questions on the issue dominated the all candidates forum sponsored by the newspaper and the Prince George Chamber of Commerce.

Mayoral candidate Lyn Hall reiterated what he has stated from the launch of his campaign.

“It’s my plan to bring that particular policy to council, the new council, for review,” Hall said. “My anticipation is there will be changes.”

Incumbent council candidate Frank Everitt was asked whether he felt it was appropriate for senior city staff to start with four weeks’ holidays, five weeks after to two years, increasing to six weeks after three years of service.

“We want our staff to go on holidays,” Everitt said, adding staff who are properly rested after a holiday are more productive when they return to work.

Asked the same question, Susan Scott said she believes the practice is reasonable, but it willing to look at the practice.

“I think that everything is open for review,” she said. “I’m hoping that within the examination of the overtime package, that the whole package gets examined.”

Asked about council’s influence over the operations at City Hall, Terri McConnachie said council deals with the city manager.

“She has the responsibility to make decisions that are necessary from there,” she said. “Council says steer the ship over there, and she gathers everyone to grab a paddle.”

Candidate Kyle Sampson was asked whether he felt it was reasonable for general managers and directors at the city receive automatically receive two weeks of extra vacation each year in lieu of overtime.

“Yes, I think so,” he said. “I think it’s a common practice. I work in a management position and don’t receive overtime. I can get a salary for the job I’m expected to do and I’m getting compensation for the time that work.”

He added he couldn’t fault the city staff and administration for receiving overtime pay for dealing with evacuees because they were only following policy.

“They need fair remuneration and fair holidays,” he said. “We need to definitely look at the policy is that really fair.”

Incumbent Brian Skakun was asked whether he supports the findings of a 2017 consultant’s report which indicated one of the city’s director is paid $60,000 above the average of what is paid for the same position in similar sized communities.

“No I don’t,” said Skakun. “What happens when someone gets a promotion within the city, the city manager will give a report to council saying ‘these are the extra duties and the extra pay.’ A lot of that will happen in closed meetings. I don’t support that increase.”

He added when council reviews the city manager’s job performance, it should also review the managers as well.

“Generally, we only have one discussion a year with the city manager, and it’s more of a high level discussion, so we don’t cover a lot of the job performance issues of people working under her,” he said.

Cameron Stolz, who raised the issue of staff compensation and overtime when he launched his campaign, said he would like to see the city’s overtime policy changed to reflect more of what is done in the private sector.

“As a small business person, I look at my staff and I look at the rest of private industry,” he said. “I have friends who have chosen not to leave the union and enter management because it meant they would have to give up their overtime hours. When you step into management in private industry, whether it’s a sawmill or elsewhere, you give up the right to be paid for your overtime, is traditionally what it is, and you get time off in lieu for your overtime. I’m surprised that our senior staff, who get two extra weeks (of holidays) for overtime, collected overtime wages on top of that. I’m disappointed by that.”

He said the policy needs to be changed.

Prince George voters go to the polls on October 20.