RMWB considers outsourcing, merging and restructuring hundreds of jobs

The union representing these positions says the proposed changes will impact more than 450 workers at the RMWB.

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Outsourcing, merging and restructuring dozens of municipal positions is being considered by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. The union representing these positions says the proposed changes will impact more than 450 workers at the RMWB.

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A Thursday statement from the RMWB said administration is also reviewing its organization at all levels of the municipality. The statement said the proposals reflect the RMWB’s “commitment to fiscal responsibility and providing efficient and sustainable public services.”

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A municipal spokesperson said Thursday that the municipality is not commenting further on the issue. A letter sent to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1505 from the municipality, and later shared with Postmedia, says the proposed changes are:

  1. Restructuring the Pulse Line by adjusting the hours of operation.
  2. Consolidating customer service agent positions.
  3. Restructuring and consolidating the environmental and facility services trades departments into one department.
  4. Terminating all guard services and outsourcing custodial services within the bylaw services department.
  5. Outsourcing certain services within the solid waste, parks and fleet services departments.
  6. Transferring maintenance and operational duties of the Fort Chipewyan Airport to the Fort McMurray Airport Authority.
  7. Other positions becoming “either redundant or efficient to outsource” following these changes.

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“The privatization of municipal services often gets reversed and almost always ends up being a disaster for the local taxpayer and the local residents who rely on those services,” said CUPE Alberta spokesperson Lou Arab in an interview.

“We have some rights to consultation in our collective agreements. We’re going to utilize that to as great a degree as possible to get information about what’s being considered and get that information public, and make sure that the dismantling of public services is done in broad daylight.”

People arrive at Fort Chipewyan airport’s terminal on Thursday, January 16, 2020. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Operational review presented to council earlier this week

The announcement was made two days after an operational review conducted by the auditing firm KPMG was presented to council. The review was approved by council in February 2022. The findings are current as of October 2023.

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The report found council makes too many requests to an understaffed administration. This distracts staff from their duties and creates setbacks. The audit also found the municipality is understaffed and struggles with recruiting for key positions. The governance structure is disorganized, needs updated policies and has poor communication between different departments.

But the report, which is more than 670 pages and presented to council at their Tuesday meeting, found the RMWB is doing plenty of things well. Public services, such as park maintenance and snow clearing, exceeded standards. Services deemed essential or important for public safety are also run well.

The report notes the RMWB shows strong commitments to transparency and accountability, although there is room for improvement. It suggests creating clear guidelines on the roles of council and administration. Administration should be reorganized so roles are clearly defined and do not overlap, and communication flows easier.

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The RMWB needs to upgrade policies that reflect changes in technology. Remote sensing, artificial intelligence and machine learning were listed as examples of technologies that could improve existing systems. Falling behind existing technologies creates delays, mistakes and poor performances.

Policies, guidelines and expectations also need to be updated when it comes to maintaining assets, rural services, customer service and efficiency standards.

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