Tag Archives: sick leave

This is not your average piggy bank

Posted August 15, 2012

With the startling comparison of employee costs of the annual Guelph budget pegged at 89 per cent compared to that of the City of Waterloo at 56.6 per cent, guelphspeaks has dug into the numbers.

Studying the reserves report presented to the Finance and Enterprise Services committee, more than $11,736,232 has been set aside for employment compensation reserves. That’s equivalent to $23,102 for each 1,508 full-time employee.

Now keep in mind this money is set aside for future costs of employee benefits. Ordinarily, that is a prudent move.

But digging deeper what constitutes these future liabilities?

Number one is sick leave with a reserve of $10,445,856.  That figure includes $3,530,693 for the firemen; $3,297,414 for police services; $894,104 for the librarians and $$2,203,645 for members of CUPE 241. The other reserve is for “employee salary gapping” totaling $1,290,376.

The practice of allowing employees to accumulate unused sick leave for a bonus payment upon retirement is unfair to taxpayers, most of who do not enjoy this benefit.

Let me get this straight. Suppose employee A, in the last five years of his time in Guelph earning $75,000 per year, retires after 25 years. During that time his total sick leave benefit accumulated to 450 days (18 days a year).  But during his work life, he was sick sometimes so for our comparison, he ended his career with the city with a sick leave benefit of 275 days.

Doing the math, employee A worked 260 days a year at a rate of $300 a day. This includes three to four weeks paid vacation.

His sick leave benefit when he retired was: Salary – $75,000; Divided by annual days worked =$300; Multiplied by 275 days of accumulated sick days = $82,500. This is a taxpayer-funded bonus for not taking the sick days off over the lifetime on the job

Why are taxpayers paying twice for work performed by employee A?

The same applies to vacation time not taken and accumulated. The city has a reserve set aside for this perk to be paid when an employee terminates.

But wait! Employee A was paid for every day he reported for work. Is this not double dipping – being paid twice for coming to work?

It has been a long-term goal of the municipal unions to achieve this. Unfortunately in Guelph, all employees, including hydro enjoy this benefit. Look at it this way: Why should taxpayers have to guarantee this after the employee is long gone?

The recent retirement of the chief of police, Rob Davis, is an example of how accumulated unused sick leave over the years, plus unused vacation pay, resulted in a major league payment of more than $40,000. Mr. Davis will enjoy a pension of $135,313 per year indexed at 2 per cent per year for the rest of his life.

Don’t assume the worst. The former chief is a career police officer and entitled as those are the rules. The time has arrived that the right to receive accumulated unused sick leave benefit and unused vacation, has to go.

Already council has been told that the vacation accrual reserve of $5,122,596 is to be retired and the assets distributed to other employee compensation reserves.

Incidentally, that figure in the employment compensation reserve totaling $11,736,232 was not included in the above calculation.

What is baffling why there is a Workman’s Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) reserve of $2,203,520 and the city allows a sick leave benefit on top of the WSIB benefit if any. Every employer in the province contributes to the WSIB on behalf of his or her employees, but shouldn’t that be a budget operating expense?

The way this administration works is creating many reserves or cash envelopes, if you will. Just like grandma used to do.

There is more than $40,000,000 stashed in reserve funds, why does council keep coming back to increase taxes by an average of 3.5 per cent every year? User fees are also increased while the taxpayers are pinched, due to mismanagement of the city finances.

Some reserves are needed. However this council justifies its actions be using the plethora of reserves as political tools to meet their misguided end-game.

Further, how is all this money being managed? How is it invested and where? How is money withdrawn from the reserves without having to sell assets?

Some may call having reserves is prudent but it’s nothing but a nice plump piggy bank that can be raided at will to justify the means.

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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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