Edmonton could save $100 million with cuts to management, city union says

The union representing City of Edmonton workers says cuts to management positions could save the city millions of dollars in operating costs.

Councillor calls city management structure 'grossly ineffecient'

Lanny Chudyk, president of Civic Service Union 52, said the city has increased the ranks of management over the past several years, without filling vacancies at the front line service level. (Jordan Omstead/CBC)

The union representing City of Edmonton workers says cuts to management positions could save the city millions of dollars in operating costs.

A report issued by the Civic Service Union 52 outlines how the city could save $100 million over a four-year budget cycle by cutting down on layers of bureaucracy, decreasing the number of managerial jobs and reclassifying low-level managers as union employees.

The report, which was co-signed by the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union 569, was shared with councillors on Monday.

"In the last three and a half to four years, we've been concerned about the significant increases in the management structure," said Lanny Chudyk, president of the civic service union. "It seems to be getting much bigger at the top and much thinner at the bottom."

Civic Services Union 52 represents technical, professional, administrative and clerical at the city and other civic organizations, such as the library and public utilities.

The report, dated Dec. 4, comes on the heels of the city council's passing of the 2019-22 operating budget on Friday. Chudyk said the city would still need to do its own analysis to determine what management cuts would be most effective. 

According to the report, the number of management positions compared to union positions in the city has narrowed in the past three decades. In 2018, there was one manager for every 10 union staff; in 1983 one manager to 15 staff.

Chudyk pointed to a reorganization within Parks and Road Services this year that he claims doubled the number of director positions from 16 to 32 without adding any unionized jobs.

The union's recommendations had the support of Coun. Mike Nickel ahead of its release on Monday. Nickel said he's witnessed an "explosion" in the city's "grossly inefficient" managerial structure over the past two years.

"This isn't about more union jobs for them," he said. "For them this is about trying to drive value for your taxes into an organization that's top heavy with management."

Coun. Mike Nickel called the city's management structure "grossly inefficient" and "out of control". (Peter Evans/CBC)

A 2014 report commissioned by the City of Toronto found the staff to manager ratio in that city was one to nine. The Toronto report concluded the ratio was favourable when compared to industry norms that typically fall between five to eight staff per manager.

But the union's report found Edmonton has between one and two additional layers of non-unionized managers compared to other major cities.

The union also recommends the city to cut some of the estimated 1500 management positions, saving roughly $150,000 in salary and benefits per job.

The union says the city has inappropriately made between 300 to 450 union jobs into management positions. The report estimates those moves end up costing the city about $25,000 per job in salary that could otherwise be saved if they were classified as union positions.

Nickel said the union's recommendations could ensure resources were directed toward frontline service workers, rather than bolstering the ranks of the city's middle managers.

"Let's be blunt about this, as you add more middle management you add more people trying to look busy, be busy, and the question is, are they actually being productive," he said. "At the end of the day it comes out in the reflection of your tax bill."

The reports also recommends placing all civic organizations — including the police, library and utility services — under a shared services model. The move, the reports says, would reduce the number of senior positions in finance, human resources and information technology.

The union found the city could save $8 million annually if it modernized its job evaluation system. While short on details, the report suggests those annual savings double if Edmonton Public Library, EPCOR and other civic organizations also update their job evaluations.

With files from Natasha Riebe