The City of Hamilton has been dragging its feet for over a year on the issue of compensation for contract bylaw officers who are earning just above the minimum wage.
One of the most thankless jobs at the city of Hamilton is that of the parking enforcement officers who go around issuing tickets for illegally parked cars and overdue meters. The work is stressful as officers are repeatedly confronted by irate motorists who have been known to spit on them, verbally abuse them and even physically abuse them.
These bylaw enforcement officers are actually employees of the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, an agency created in 1925 to provide meaningful, skilled employment for veterans. The Commissionaires provide the services to Hamilton on a contract basis. Commissionaires were typically paid $14 per hour—about a dollar over the minimum wage. When the Wynne Government raised the Minimum wage to $14 per hour earlier this year it created pressure on the Commissionaires to maintain the wage gap in order to continue to attract qualified workers. According to area manager Don Thompson he had been meeting with city purchasing officials since last year, advising the City that the wage hike was coming and something had to be done or they would risk losing qualified staff. Nothing happened, and as a result when the minimum wage was instituted in January Don faced a mass walkout of workers, who now could earn the same pay in an another area without being attacked and yelled at. Don Thompson met with the City’s Audit and Administration committee last month in their last meeting before the election and provided members with a detailed presentation outlining the problem, complete with charts and timelines. The committee accepted his report without debate, comment or recommendation.
Don says he has come to satisfactory agreements with other municipalities like Burlington and St Catharines. “I told Hamilton this was going to happen (mass exodus) and at one point it looked like the city was willing to pay the extra costs, but nothing has happened. “This is dangerous work, I can’t blame our people for leaving.” Asked how much it would take to solve the problem, Don pointed to his presentation to council which showed that matter could be settled for 2018 for about $52,000. At the same time last year that Don Thompson was first warning city staff about the impending problem with the minimum wage increase; Hamilton city councillors were voting to support a $15 per hour minimum wage; Mayor Fred Eisenberger at the time saying, “it’s about ensuring that people don’t have to choose between food and rent.”