Nearly one in five city employees say they've been harassed, report shows

Nearly 20 per cent of Edmonton city staff who responded to a 2016 survey say they’ve been harassed in the workplace.

'I’m thinking it’s much higher than we ever thought,' union boss says

City auditor's report relied heavily on a 2016 survey with responses from 8,600 employees.

Nearly 20 per cent of Edmonton city staff who responded to a 2016 survey said they've been harassed in the workplace.

But only 41 per cent of the employees who reported harassment or discrimination said they later saw a change in behaviour, findings of a corporate culture audit indicate. The audit's findings were made public Thursday.

Lanny Chudyk, president of the Civic Service Union 52, said he has not seen an improvement after five years with the union. 

"I thought [harassment] occurred occasionally and maybe in some areas more often than others," Chudyk told CBC News.

"But with the calls we've had ... and some of our other union brothers have got here, I'm thinking it's much higher than we ever thought." 
Civic Service Union 52 president Lanny Chudyk said after five years of seeking change in workplace behaviour, he's seen no improvement at the city. (CSU52)

The CSU 52,  which represents 4,400 city workers, has filed six complaints on respectful workplace behaviour — several people are often involved in one complaint.

Chudyk said the complaints are usually from employees who feel they have been mistreated by managers.

"Yelling, disrespectful conversations, threatening attitude," Chudyk said.

Some of his members are afraid to go to work in the morning.

"I mean, they aren't going to be physically assaulted and beaten," he said. "But the mental harassment, the stress, the issues around respectful behaviour and treatment … brings a significant toll on these people over time."

The CSU 52 represents mainly clerks and administrators, librarians and technicians. Other unions at the city represent transit workers, firefighters and electrical workers.

Source of the findings

The office of the city auditor prepared the report to show what's happening in the current corporate culture and to give managers things to consider as they "progress with the corporate transformation," the report says.

Auditors analyzed documents and surveys and spoke with more than 100 employees throughout the organization.

The report relied heavily on the 2016 employee engagement and diversity survey, in which nearly 8,600 employees responded of a total 11,900 city employees that year, the city said. 

The report acknowledges some behaviour issues may be unreported and unaddressed. 

The audit also suggests a majority of employees get positive feedback from their direct supervisors.

Auditors say 73 per cent of employees who responded to the survey indicated that their supervisor recognizes them when they do a good job.

The report makes recommendations on improving communication between managers and employees and calls for the city to review the current system allowing employees to report issues and complaints.

City administration said it is acting on the recommendations and aspires to be a "modern municipal corporation," with the goal of re-shaping the culture of the city workplace.

Posted online, the administration's response says it is reviewing the process that encourages employees to report issues. 

City council is slated to discuss the corporate culture audit at a committee meeting Monday morning.


Natasha Riebe


Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.