Red Deer city council grappled with a request during Friday’s operating budget debate to hire one more full-time human resource staff member during the current economic downturn.
The $68,267 request, for salary, materials and supplies, narrowly passed in a 5-4 vote.
The city’s Human Resources department currently has three human resources consultants to serve the city’s 1,600 employees and burnout was becoming a concern.
Human Resources investigations have increased dramatically over the years to 51 in 2016 from four in 201o. With more people looking for jobs, the city saw about 33,000 work applications in 2016, up from 24,500 in 2015.
Councillors Tanya Handley, Lawrence Lee, Buck Buchanan and Mayor Tara Veer voted against the hire.
Handley said she saw the need, but her focus during the 2017 operating budget discussion is to hold the line on hiring.
“My response is strictly one of timing. For me, it’s just not the time to add to our staff complement,” Handley said.
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said she understood the sensitivities of hiring right now. But human resources and labour relations issues and problems are a daily challenge.
“I think about healthy, safe employees. I think about mental health. I think about worker to worker conflict. That in turn has a spinoff effect for supervisors, which in turn has an effect on labour relations and human resources,” Wyntjes said.
“It’s tough all over and I think if there’s one area we have to be particularly focused on it’s our people,” said Coun. Lynne Mulder.
In other budget decisions on Friday, council approved $37,000 in operating savings for ways to dialogue and engage with the community, including a focus on the city’s aboriginal population.
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission made recommendations that are proving to be a game changer for municipalities in terms of the expectations of how we related to the indigenous community. Part of the work in that is establishing protocols with our local Urban Aboriginal Voices, working government to government in terms of how we approach issues that affect our indigenous community,” Veer said.
Council also decided to hold off on a Value for Money audit for another city department. An audit has just begun on Inspections and Licensing, Planning and Engineering departments.
“Council tonight spoke in strong favor for Value for Money audits, that it is a strong tool for us to give future direction to the organization for improvements for our community. But council didn’t want to invest an additional $100,000 for this year when we have the building and development processes under review.”
Debate on the city’s draft operating budget is scheduled to continue through next week.