City of Edmonton suspends complaint process, says letter to employees

Skaters at Edmonton City Hall Feb. 2016. Emily Mertz, Global News

The City of Edmonton has moved quickly in trying to change the corporate culture after council’s Audit Committee dealt with a contentious report last week.

The move comes as representatives from several civic unions have noticed an increase in complaints about harassment since publicity around employee abuse surfaced after a report from city auditor David Wiun.

“Effective immediately, the city’s current complaint process has been suspended,” reads a letter sent from city manager Linda Cochrane to all city employees.

It tells them there is a temporary third party process to handle complaints in the interim.

“Obviously this has led to an increase,” said Mike Scott, president of CUPE Local 30, which represents Edmonton’s outdoor employees, as well as those who’ve recently transferred over to EPCOR. “Let’s equate it to the ‘me too’ campaign. A lot of people are now starting to come forward with their allegations of abuse.”

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: 1 in 5 City of Edmonton employees say they’ve been harassed on the job

Scott said the data they’re reviewing hasn’t included a breakdown on complaints and from where in the city corporation they come from.

“Yeah, we’ve noticed a few more calls in the office for sure,” agreed Mark Tetterington, with ATU Local 569, the transit union. “I just had one. I just got off the phone with somebody who said he was harassed by a fellow employee.”

Lanny Chudyk, who represents the indoor workers for the city through CSU 52 did not return phone calls as of Thursday evening. It’s expected that employee group is most prone to incidents because they work in an office environment.

Cochrane is to meet Friday with union leaders to update the process in establishing a permanent process.

“I applaud her wanting to nip this in the bud,” Scott said. “We were in the process of coming up with a new streamlined reporting system and a new panel of peers to move forward on hearing these complaints that was separate from the department that was affected to remove any biases.”

READ MORE: Edmonton bus drivers have faced ‘public backlash’ after 2 fatal pedestrian collisions: union

Story continues below advertisement

The creation of a new system will take several weeks, according to the letter.

“We plan to hire an independent external company to advance the management of complaints and to advise how to design and maintain an improved process. The firm will be selected by the end of the year, and their work will take several months to complete.”

Council will hear some estimates on the cost of an independent office during the budget process. At Audit Committee they were told the cost of conducting an employee satisfaction survey on an annual basis would be $180,000.