No matter how you look at it there is something very wrong in the way three Hamilton NDP constituency offices are being operated. We have three, essentially two-person offices, who between them have racked up almost a dozen instances of employee terminations, grievances and labour arbitration hearings. No less than five staffers have gone on stress leave and there are at least two instances of employees simply being paid to stay home for extended periods of time. In one instance the NDP actually took the union representing a former employee in NDP leader Andrea Horwath’s office to arbitration in an attempt to stop payments to the employee that had been continuing for more than 17 months after she was dismissed. Setting aside the terrible optics of a party that derives its support from the labour movement being caught up in round after round of labour litigation; there is the issue of what this mess does to the ability of constituents to receive service from these offices that their taxes pay for. Part of the problem lies in the Ontario Legislature which apparently allows the political parties to set standards, or maybe no standards, for the operation of these offices. Clearly there is a need for a more professional approach to the operation of what for most constituents is their only point of contact with their government. One of the flaws in our democracy is that we can elect people with good political or policy instincts; who by nature of their background may have no administrative skills at all (and running a two person office shouldn’t require an MBA.) Add to that, possibly, a trait common to many of the elected members who, as the late Prime Minister Mackenzie King once put it, “attach excessive urgency to their re-election,” and we have the conditions that exist in Hamilton. How many other constituency offices across the province are in the same boat, we don’t know, but there are undoubtedly more. Constituency office workers are public servants — they are not the personal servants of their MPP’s as some apparently mistakenly believe. There needs to be uniform training for MPPs on personnel management, and better centralized standards established for the operation of these front-line offices. Hopefully after the coming election the government of the day can add this important issue to the agenda.
4 Comments to: NDP staffing issues an embarrassment
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