PUBLIC FOR A REASON

Public For A Reason

City operating budgets are always a controversial topic, in an effort to dig deeper into key issues CUPE Local 37 and CUPE Local 38, who represent City workers, contracted a public opinion survey which closely mirrored the methodology and approach that The City of Calgary uses for its annual Citizen Satisfaction survey.   

The objectives of this research were to:

  • better understand satisfaction with services provided by CUPE members.
  • determine awareness of City of Calgary plans regarding privatization/outsourcing.
  • understand resident perceptions and reactions to outsourcing in general.
  • understand resident awareness, perceptions and reactions to outsourcing black cart collection in the Northwest.

Survey highlights include:

Calgarians value public services which contribute to the overall quality of life we all enjoy (parks and recreation facilities, 311 services, black cart waste collection). And respondents were generally positive about the value they receive for their tax dollars. In 2019, City Council removed more than $60 million from the budget. When asked about their perceptions of the impact of these cuts 52 per cent say it strongly/somewhat diminishes their impression of the quality of life in Calgary.  

“Of course, there are always varying opinions about budget”, says D’Arcy Lanovaz, President of CUPE Local 38, “especially during difficult times like these which is why we wanted to dig deeper into public perception.

“This is and has been a difficult few years for Calgary and we don’t disagree with the need to optimize budgets,” says Lanovaz. “However, it shouldn’t come at the expense of quality of service. We take loss of jobs and the impact on both the public and our members very seriously.”

When asked how satisfied people are with the non-elected public servants who administer services, facilities, safety and infrastructure for communities, 78 percent of Calgarians indicated they are satisfied.

“Recent opinion pieces in the media about ‘the taxpayer funded city hall cocoon’ don’t represent the facts,” says Lanovaz.

Recently Statistics Canada released new data on population growth in Canada’s large urban regions and it showed Calgary’s population grew by 1.9 percent between July 1, 2019 and July 1, 2020.  

At the same time many city employees took pay freezes in 2018 and 2019 in order to get a 1.5 percent raise last year.  And, the city reported as of October 2020 that they were near 2013 staffing levels.

The city also hired an outside consultant to do a salary review and found that the city’s compensation is comparable to what other cities offer and slightly behind the private sector.

Specifically, it reported that front-line staff are paid a little bit less than they would if they were in the private sector — that includes pension and job security and benefits.

Lanovaz says this is an unfortunate situation where only a part of the facts are being reported publicly and it’s giving a false impression of the real state of affairs for City workers. 

Cities are dynamic entities with complex budgets and changing requirements.  These are difficult times, and we need to work together to achieve results that don’t impact the quality of life for Calgarians either today or in the future.  

Pay compensation is only one piece of a complex budget and as we collectively navigate the recession and pandemic, we simply want a seat at the table to discuss options,” says Lanovaz. “Our organization represents front line workers who have valuable suggestions for improving service delivery. This is an election year which represents an opportunity for Calgarians to choose what is most important to them.”

Background

CUPE Local 38 represents the administrative and technical workers at the City of Calgary and ENMAX as well as Calgary Parking Authority workers.

D’Arcy Lanovaz is the President of CUPE Local 38 as well as the Chair of the Coalition of Civic unions which represents employees across all disciplines within the City of Calgary.

The survey, set to mirror the way The City of Calgary does its Citizen Satisfaction Survey, was conducted by telephone using random probability sampling with 600 residents living inside the pilot project area. Calls included both landline (56%) and mobile (44%) phones. The overall level, the results of this survey can be considered accurate to within +/-4%, 19 times out of 20, (95% Confidence Interval).

The objectives of this research were to:

  • better understand satisfaction with services provided by CUPE members.
  • determine awareness of City of Calgary plans regarding privatization/outsourcing.
  • understand resident perceptions and reactions to outsourcing in general.
  • understand resident awareness, perceptions and reactions to outsourcing black cart collection in the Northwest.

The survey was conducted by Metroline Research Group