Next Round of Job Cuts Begin at Ottawa City Hall
The City of Ottawa cut 75 managers and 102 unionized staff Wednesday, with professional workers feeling much of the pain as senior leaders find savings ahead of the 2017 budget.
The city is estimating $9 million in severance payments, but the details aren’t final since some workers could move into other open positions. The cuts will help the city to deliver $14 million in annual savings.
Jamie Dunn, executive director of the Civic Institute of Professional Personnel, said 60 members of the union received termination notices, and of those, very few people have supervision as their primary responsibility.
The city has focused the cuts in areas that won’t affect front-line services, but Dunn predicts residents will see a difference. The cuts include positions related to communications, program co-ordination, research, policy planning and community funding and development, Dunn said.
“The shock is disproportionately affecting professionals,” Dunn said, noting CIPP members account for a large chunk of the reductions.
A sense of gloom filled city hall early Wednesday as word spread that the termination notices were being delivered. It was the next wave of job reductions after city manager Steve Kanellakos shuffled his senior management team in July.
In an interview, Kanellakos said employees have told him that he needs to reduce the internal red tape to get projects off the ground. With the cuts, he has flattened the reporting structure and is encouraging staff to take ownership of their programs to deliver initiatives.
Kanellakos said the new organizational structure will empower staff to make decisions without getting stymied by levels of bureaucracy.
“I’ve heard loud and clear from council, staff and the public,” Kanellakos said.
Kanellakos maintained the cuts won’t affect front line services, especially since that was a key request from council. There was room to tweak the administration of city services to save money and improve operations, he said.
“We have to streamline how we do our work if we’re going to do a good job,” Kanellakos said.
The cuts will actually affect 1,400 workers since many will have new roles and new reporting responsibilities.
City management is under pressure by council to table annual budgets with property tax increases capped at two per cent. The current round of cuts has been anticipated for several months as council nears the 2017 budget process in November.
Kanellakos said staff who still have jobs might need weeks to understand and process why the city made the changes, but he hopes they see the “great opportunity” ahead in the municipal public service.
“When something like this happens, everyone is affected,” Kanellakos said. “It ripples through the entire organization, whether you were affected or not. No one likes to see something bad happen to somebody.”
Dunn, the executive director of the CIPP, said members had been anxiously waiting for details about the next round of cuts. There was an “unhappiness” about people being shown the door Wednesday, he said.
“It didn’t leave a good feeling with the people left in the workplace,” Dunn said.
Dunn explained that the CIPP isn’t seniority-based, unlike other unions that use service time to develop a layoff order. CIPP hopes workers who received termination papers will get priority placement in other open jobs at the city.
CUPE Local 503, whose bargaining units form the largest city union, declined to comment, noting the majority of the cuts don’t affect its members.
Most council members left it up to city management to explain the rationale for the cuts.
“It’s not a good feeling; it’s not a good day,” Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans said. “A lot of people have committed their lives to the City of Ottawa and are leaving the corporation, and obviously that impacts their families as well, so nobody feels good about a day like today.”