Manitoba

Winnipeg union wants your feedback on city snowplowing services

What do you think about the city’s snow-clearing efforts? A Winnipeg union wants to know and has set up a hotline hoping to receive feedback from drivers.

CUPE Local 500 launches website, hotline hoping to gather stories from drivers on city service

What do you think about the city’s snow-clearing efforts? A Winnipeg union wants to know and has set up a hotline hoping to receive feedback from drivers. 1:52

What do you think about the city’s snow-clearing efforts? The union that represents about 5,000 of Winnipeg's municipal workers wants to know and has set up a toll-free hotline and website hoping to receive feedback from drivers.

"Are they happy with it?" asked Mike Davidson, CUPE Local 500 president. "We've heard from people who had their cars damaged, fenders ripped off, a number of stories ... personal property damaged too."

Davidson voiced his concerns with the city's snow clearing program last Wednesday at the city's executive policy committee.

Davidson's concerns stem from the quality of service as well as the current division of labour between in-house city crews and independent contractors — something that led him to file a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) with the city.
Do you think the city's snow-clearing program is great, just OK or needs improvement? A local union is inviting Winnipeggers to share their stories through a new hotline and website it launched Monday. (CBC)

The city has said that this winter, 80 per cent of snow clearing labour has and will continue to go to contractors, leaving the remaining 20 per cent to city crews. 

Davidson isn't happy with that arrangement or the fact that the city said it didn't have data comparing private-versus-public snow-clearing work.

And on Monday, the union unveiled its new hotline and invited Winnipeggers to weigh in on the matter.

"We know that Winnipeggers have concerns about snowplowing," Davidson in a release Monday. "We want to collect citizens stories on how poor plowing has affected their lives."

Merit in hotline

Susan Portelance lives near Elmwood, an area with some of the most snow-clearing complaints to 3-1-1 in the city. She said she welcomes the union's idea of a hotline.

It's like any data that you get. You can take it and use it however you want. Are they going to take the negatives or are they going to take the positives?- Dave Edwards

"I can certainly see the merit in doing it, and I'm glad they're doing it, because they can get some more feedback."

But Portelance also said she doesn't care who clears the streets, so long the job is done well.

"I don't think that matters, so long as you have a certain standard and hold them to it."

Private-versus-public

The city struck a motion Feb. 10 to develop a report comparing the difference in cost and quality between city and private snow-clearing companies.

But Davidson said the union remains worried the report will be short-sighted or too narrowly focused on the cost of services.
Mike Davidson, CUPE Local 500 president, unveiled a toll-free hotline (1-855-223-9311) and website (wpgsnow.ca) Monday and wants Winnipeg drivers to provide feedback on the city's snowplowing services. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

"As with many city reports, we are concerned that only costs will be considered, rather than ensuring that the highest quality snow clearing practices for Winnipeggers happens."

Davidson said people are upset when a contractor damages their property and they can't effectively complain to their city councillor.

"Those are the type of stories that we want to hear," said Davidson. "Those already we've heard from people saying they've had no satisfaction, that they can't deal with the City of Winnipeg, they've been told to deal with the contractor. So, that in itself is a huge issue."

The union believes city workers do a better job than contractors and are more easily held accountable.

"Our hotline will collect stories from Winnipeggers to help show the city that our community deserves the best snowplowing possible," he said in a release. This is a winter city, after all."

Davidson said the stories and data gathered from the website and hotline will be sent to the city to help it in its effort to develop a comprehensive review of its services.

Fair representation

But Dave Edwards said he isn't sure the hotline will help. He also questions whether the stories collected by the union will be used fairly and presented in an unbiased manner.

"It's like any data that you get. You can take it and use it however you want," said Edwards. "So what are they going to do? Are they going to take the negatives or are they going to take the positives? [Are] they going to take it all?"

CUPE insists it will collect and pass along all stories from Winnipeggers, not just the negative ones, to the city.

That review on private-versus-public plowing is due in June.

The snow plow hotline can be reached by calling (toll-free) 1-855-223-9311. Otherwise, the union encourages Winnipeggers to visit the website at wpgsnow.ca.

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