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Firefighters, city working to mend fence
Work by the City of White Rock to mend the fence with firefighters is underway.
City manager Peggy Clark, in a report to council last week, said a recent meeting with union and management officials was “productive.”
The report describes progress including a Sept. 15 meeting with firefighters in which union and management representatives agreed to meet more regularly to ensure issues that arise are understood by both sides and resolved mutually.
The effort was made after results of an employee satisfaction survey earlier this year revealed lingering discontent amongst firefighters in relation to the city’s late-2009 decision to consider contracting out its fire services.
In May, human resources director Jacquie Johnstone told council the survey, distributed in January, was completed by about 47 per cent of 153 employees. Of the responses, just one came from a firefighter, she said.
Firefighters had also refused to sign the city’s new employee code of conduct.
The discontent prompted council to direct staff to find ways to improve the relationship between the city and firefighters.
In the report, Clark acknowledged firefighters raised “some legitimate concerns with the wording of several of the questions on the survey.”
Regarding the code of conduct, there was a commitment to clarify the purpose of having staff acknowledge awareness of city policies, Clark said.
“Union and management have agreed to meet on a more regular basis to ensure that both the union and management understand issues as they may arise and work to mutually resolve them.”
Human resources director Jacquie Johnstone told council focus groups in the coming weeks will look at how to bring about positive change and encourage open discussion on how staff can work together more effectively.
Coun. Lynne Sinclair commended the effort.
“I’m very pleased to see we’re going to engage employees,” she said.
Mayor Catherine Ferguson agreed, noting to not do so would risk discontent and a decline in productivity.