City staff absenteeism cost some $4,499,820 in 2011

News reports about spending $150,000 on reporting software will not cure the increasing rate of sick leave by city staffers.

Yet that’s the solution presented to the Corporate Administration, Finance and Enterprise committee by Executive Director of Corporate and Human Resources, Mark Amorosi. The purchase is to reduce the increasing rate of sick leave absenteeism.

The city acknowledges that staffers were absent from work on average 10.2 days in 2011. Doing the math, that totals 13,015 lost days last year. That’s up from an average of 9.7 days per employee in 2008.

The city staff consists of 1,276 full time employees. That does not include, the Police with 195 uniformed personnel and 80 fulltime civilian staff plus “some” part-time employees. Add in three senior staffers, the Chief, Deputy Chief and Director of Corporate Services. Then there is the senior officers association composed of inspectors and 11 civilian senior managers.

Sick leave statistics for the Police Services and Fire Department were not revealed.

Estimating the average pay of Guelph civic workers at $45,000 per year divided by paid 270 workdays a year, equals an average daily rate of $166.66.

Now multiply that by 13,015 missed days and the estimated cost to taxpayers is $4,499,820. That’s paying for work that was never done.

Amorosi estimated that the software, when applied could save the city $300,000 and an additional $200,000 for reduced overtime to fill in for absent workers.

Coun. Gloria Kovach questioned where the $150,000 was coming from seeing it was not in the 2012 budget.

Amorosi, admitting that the city’s reserve accounts were too low,  said funding would come from the “salary gapping reserve”  that he said was very well funded for a city the size of Guelph.

How many businesses could afford to lose 10 days a year from employees who booked off sick?

The first question to ask is why are there such generous sick leave benefits in staff contracts? Are these benefits to be applied whenever at the employee’s discretion?

Somehow, the idea that the public pot is bottomless ignores the financial limits of the taxpayers.

There has been considerable discussion across the country on the runaway salaries and benefits paid to public employees. It ranges from municipalities to Provincial and Federal Governments.

The real question is, are staff benefits too generous and not controlled to the benefit of the taxpayers?

Municipalities have few sources of revenue and must balance their annual budgets. The chief source in Ontario comes from the taxpayers. It is collected by the municipalities and is shared with the Boards of Education.

For Amorosi to suggest that $150,000 should be spent on software to solve a problem for which management is responsible is wasteful and lacks discipline.

As usual, Mayor Farbridge supported the move.

It’s now up to Council to approve this proposal.

Will the Farbridge gang of eight support the committee’s recommendation? Or will the majority of council come to their senses and sandbag this attempt to let management off the hook?

Oh well, it’s only your $4,499, 820.

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8 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

8 responses to “City staff absenteeism cost some $4,499,820 in 2011

  1. turningthecurve

    Hi, Gerry; Re: Time lost — how is this sort of thing currently being tracked? What software is currently being used by the City and what additional efficiencies will be achieved through the new software? What else does it do? Also, as it stands now, is there a department with higher rates of lost time? Which one or ones stand out?

    • Hi Craig: All great questions. Unfortunately the uber chief of Human Resources, Mark Amorosi, did not answer these questions. Apparently neither did members of the committee who must have dozed off during the Amorosi presentation. There is only one committee of council that has a majority of the members of the opposition… it wasn’t this one. If anything else Council should refer the question back for more details of the function of this software. I guess I’m too old fashioned to believe that a manager should be responsible for his staff and when they book off and why. I am still foggy about the “salary gapping reserve.”

  2. geo

    $150,000 for software? Can’t the city just send someone to Best Buy, that is if there not sick that day.

    • Yet another example of how the Farbridge troll-toadies serve up costly solutions to solve basic management responsibilities.

      Too may gaps exist in senior management ranks to act as a common sense filter to such silly suggestions.

      Failing to hire a chief financial officer for almost a year, is an indication that there is a failure to provide basic direction from season senior staff in the civic operations.

  3. turningthecurve

    This software will d0 ____________ , something that we currently cannot do or do well without a lot of time. It will allow us to know ____________, which is again something we do not know or cannot know without a lot of work. With this info, managers will be able to know ______________, which means they will also know _____________ and ______________, and will allow them to do _____________ (a bit of a circle here), which will allow the us to save _______________, which goes to how this expense makes sense as an advisable cost.

    Or… Municipality X and Y have it, so we should have it too.

  4. Paul

    What is most disappointing is that Kovach tried to amend the motion to ZERO dollars which meant that the software purchase would be a first charge against savings in the sickpay account. Yet not one Councillor would second her motion. Now I do not expect the supporters of the Mayor to support such an amendment – to be specific Laidlaw, Hofland, Findlay, Piper, Wettstein and Bircher, but what about the remaining weak willies? – Dennis, Van Hellaman, Furfaro, Bell, and Guthrie? If they had collectively “grown a pair” – well who knows maybe Carl would have too!,
    Use of the salary gapping reserve is another misuse of funds by staff supported by Farbridge.
    However I am more concerned about the Managerial and Supervision incompetence which appears to be the real problem. The City has a whole lexicon of “managerial titles” and yet it seems like none of the incumbents can do the job properly. I have worked in places where the bosses would call you in to discuss why you were absent from work and what the company could do to support you in these times of stress. Of course one of the reasons for this conversation was to impress on the employee that his/her job was important and that when they were absent, with little or no notice, the department had to scramble to cover the loss of a trained employee. These conversations were documented and put on the employee’s file. Having the conversation and documenting it certainly had a positive impact.
    So maybe it is time to get rid of all these fancy titles that have inundated the City under Farbridge’s watch – you know – General Manager, Director, Senior this and Senior that, and go back to titles that have meaning – Managers Manage, and Supervisors (and Foremen) supervise.
    In the end if someone is a chronic malingerer, or a hypochondriac or cannot handle stress or is not properly trained or whatever, the chances are that if the “boss” has a chat with the employee on return to work. a number of things will change and improve.
    Final point – Frequent absenteeism is a harbinger of LOW Morale.

    • You nailed it Paul.
      But do not diss the loyal opposition of Bell, Furfaro, Van Hellemond, Guthrie, Kovach who are outgunned on Council by the Farbridge Gang of Eight. Todd Dennis, who ran on a reform platform, defected to the Farbridge majority, is a political opportunist who should enjoy his one and only term of office.

      Meanwhile, city managers should track their employee absenteeism and keep records to establish performance of their staff.

      Software won’t do it, it’s a basic management responsibility.

  5. Paul

    Jus to clarify my concern – Why did no-one of the “outsiders” second the Kovach amendment to the motion? If they are tired of losing motions, then one can only conclude that they have given up. So unfortunately that means that they have been defeated.
    As for Guthrie, I disagree with your opinion. I think that like Dennis he too has caved in to Farbridge and will also be a one termer.

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