Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sharing A New Perspective on the RMWB

I have always taken some degree of pride in being a storyteller, able to bring a new perspective or share a perspective belonging to another. This week I was contacted by an employee of the RMWB who shared their perspective on recent events affecting the municipality, and I asked if I could share their thoughts with you. 

I think perhaps one of the most important things to remember is that there are many sides and points of view to every story, including this one. There are hundreds of employees at the RMWB who work hard every single day to improve our region, keep our communities functioning and do their jobs to the best of their ability. I believe their stories have just as much value as those belonging to anyone else, and so I am happy to share one story and perspective with you.

My correspondent asked to remain anonymous, and I respect their wishes as what has value here is their story, not their identity. I appreciate you reading what they have to say with an open mind - and remembering that every single person has a story to tell, even if we may disagree with their perspective.

Good Morning!

Spring is finally here, the sun is out, the birds are chirping, the season of change is surrounding us,from nature through to federal/provincial/local politics. With Spring and change, comes the enviable cleaning or flush required for that change, and that's what I want to speak about here.

Leaders in the RMWB all strive to provide for our employees and our community a higher quality of life.  Some of us go above and beyond, working excessive hours without compensation and using our own hard earned dollars to make a "higher quality of life" a reality.  Some of us routinely pay for appreciation lunches, office gifts, birthday parties, special events and minor project expenses with our own money.  Our duty to our employees is to celebrate their victories and their accomplishments, and if necessary, foot the bill with our personal credit cards.  While some leaders within the organization may have spent tax-dollars on questionable items, we have no context as a community to why those dollars were spent.

Perhaps that paltry $300 in soaps was used as a "thank you" to compensate non-unionized employees ineligible for overtime for working extra hours on an important project, that if paid out would have easily been in the thousands, if not tens of thousands for their time and effort.  One comment I saw earlier stated, "Under what circumstances would it EVER be acceptable to purchase scented soaps with tax dollars?"  To that, another comment stated, "What about a bathroom?"

We are so blind-sided by the shock of public servants spending OUR communities money, that we do not take the time to put those expenses in context.  When will it end, when we've cut all expenses but the absolute basics?

How many of our residents would continue their jobs if they provided no training, no compensation aside from base rates, no lunches/travel/conferences, no buses, AND expected you to work extra hours unpaid?

If we scare away all the staff that are hire-able by other companies, we'll end up with a large population of employees that are only there because they have too much to lose (ie: pension), which is VERY typical of government.  In turn, those employees do the bare minimum to retain their job, because there is no incentive to try, there is only incentive to not get fired.  When we end up with a team of leaders and employees doing the bare minimum, our residents suffer the results.

As a community, we need to "rip the bandaid off", move past this entire thing, and start focusing on whats important:  Improving the quality of life for our residents and our community. Part of that, includes looking after and retaining the employees of the RMWB.


  1. "How many of our residents would continue their jobs if they provided no training, no compensation aside from base rates, no lunches/travel/conferences, no buses, AND expected you to work extra hours unpaid?"

    I think you would find that a LOT of workers in the RMWB ARE working under these conditions...after all, over 16% of the RMWB population makes under $15 an hour, and not everyone works on site. If you aren't working for one of the big corporations in town, the reality of the situation is, none of those costs are covered.

    I can't even count the number of jobs I have had (not my current job, of course) where I was expected to work overtime without overtime pay, especially in the service/retail industry. Actually, I can only think of 2 jobs I have ever held that provided lunches at all, and those were only on special occasions. Many restaurants will give employees a slight discount for food, but you are still paying for the meals you eat at work out of pocket.

    The reality is that a lot of workers in Fort McMurray have it really great, which is why so many people flock here from all over the world. And to some, even having a job where they are paid $15 an hour with no included bonuses such as transportation, lunches or training, is much better than the jobs that they could have gotten back home, which makes it seem really great, even though it actually isn't. When it comes down to it, we can do better as a community, and it's important not to forget that although we may have it great in our cushy high paying jobs, whether corporate or industrial, that our neighbors may not be as lucky as we are.

  2. There was an interesting comment on Fort McMurray Today postulating a reason for Sudhir's purchases, in line with what your aninymous blogger has to say. It's from the article, 'Lavish municipal expenses revealed'.

    "That's the lavish expenses? $635.00 for some gifts for his staff, (desk toys for the men, soap for the ladies, candles for those allergic to strong scent).
    Oh sorry, you want us to believe that he bought one bar of $325 soap and one $250 toy for his personal use?
    Come on guys, think through things first and try and guess what might be a logical explanation. This is lazy reporting more suited to the tabloids. Your newspaper should be better than this. It was well within his rights to attend to staff morale in a way he saw fit, and with over fifty employees in the HR offices at the time these presents amounted to an expense of about $13 a head. Which is about the same cost as one of those baseball caps or coffee mugs companies give away all the time. All you can accuse Mr Sandhu of here is good taste."

    The principle of Occam's Razor applies. If you see hoofprints, think horses, not unicorns.

  3. Since it is public money, I"d love to know what I got out of it. Certainly no soap or knick-knacks. If a public figure wants to spend money on soap (or whatever) as a "thank you", by all means, go for it. Just don't expect me to pay for it.