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Council discuss HYAC, human resource policies

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

HYAC 2019/2020 concludes

Terms and outcomes of the Hinton Youth Advisory Council (HYAC) were discussed during the standing committee meeting on May 12.

HYAC meetings and activities are to be concluded for the 2019-2020 Term and full bursary payments are to be awarded to the 2019-2020 HYAC youth members.

The $500 bursary payments will be awarded if additional requirements are met, including enrollment in a post-secondary institution and claiming the funds within two years of graduation. Only two HYAC members are scheduled to graduate in 2020.

Eight students were appointed to HYAC who met monthly since October, to hear guest speakers, set goals, and devise work plans. They were unable to meet since February as Town facilities closed to the public on March 13 and all public meetings were eliminated due to COVID-19.

The eight HYAC members were all consulted prior to the standing committee meeting, and of those that replied, all agreed that cancelling the meetings would be preferable due to the challenges and setbacks of the pandemic.

“We were very excited to start this and the enthusiasm of these individuals was so good. I was able to attend one meeting and it’s unfortunate it got cut short but thank you for your participation,” said Mayor Marcel Michaels.

Coun. Trevor Haas added that he hopes the youth members who aren’t graduating this year return to HYAC next school year.

Employment Principles Policy

The Employment Principles Policy HR-1905 will be brought back to a regular council meeting for approval, while further discussion around rescinding policies 027, 060, and 017 will come back to the May 26 standing committee meeting.

Alberta Legislation requires employers to observe certain principles related to human rights in employment matters. 

Personnel policies salaried staff 027, general 017, and salaried employees 060 do not currently reflect Municipal Government Act (MGA) requirements, current legislative requirements, or best practice and are outdated, according to administration.

The revised Policy HR-1905 outlines new legislative requirements and the Town’s values of equal employment opportunities.

Through the revised policy, the only involvement Council has with any human resources is strictly related to hiring and managing the chief administrative officer (CAO) and approving the budget.

Coun. Dewly Nelson questioned what is legislated through the MGA and what is above and beyond. 

“It is going to be something that is challenging for the general public to accept that council really has no oversight on how we operate the organization beyond one employee,” Nelson said.

Nikiea Hope, human resources manager, said oversight should be managed through the CAO and that any human resources decisions that have budgetary or service level impacts would be presented to council. 

Expectations on how information is communicated to council should be discussed with the CAO as well, she added.

Employee Relations Policy

Committee recommended the approval of the Employee Relations Policy HR-1904.

The policy outlines employee relation practices, provides employees with knowledge on organizational practices, expectations, and processes, sets consistent standards, improves communication, reduces conflict, and improves efficiencies. 

Pay Principles Policy

Council referred the Pay Principles Policy HR-1902 to the May 26, standing committee meeting for further review. This policy is required for legislative Employment Standards compliance and it supports an organization’s attraction and retention, said CAO Emily Olsen. This policy does not result in changes to current practices. 

Nelson voiced his concern about section 4.2 of the policy regarding the CAO’s responsibility of approving job classifications, the range structures contained in the salary grid, approving cost of living increase to the salary grid, and addressing budget impacts with council. He said 4.2 allows council to receive a report after changes are already made. 

Michaels asked if the policy could include the salary grid, to share with the public and have checks and balances in place. 

The salary grid cannot be changed without council approval, but the CAO has discretion to put an employee within the grid.

Hope stated that with frequently changing job titles, it would be inefficient to keep updating the grid within the policy. She added that a directive would be made about the grid and where it can be found after the policy has passed.

Peter Vana, director of development services, said there are performance based management systems, which are used by municipalities to establish where grids are, what the different levels are, and include common comparatives.

Carla Fox, director of corporate services, added that any grid changes that cause financial impacts have to be approved within the budget, controlled by council.

The current salary wage salary grid will be brought to the May 26 standing committee for discussion.

Benefits Principles Policy

Committee recommended the approval of Benefits Principles Policy HR-1903, which ensures benefits made available to employees are not provided in a discriminatory manner.

Nelson asked for information  to come back on the total dollar amount to understand what an increase in benefits looks like in the budget.

Year-to-date Impacts

A report will come back on June 9 with information on financial impacts and cost saving measures due to COVID-19, including service reductions and personnel changes.

The report will include an update on the capital plan and look at which projects are to be deferred to free up cash flow in the coming months, needed due to the tax deferments.

The senior team meets weekly to update budgets to cover unexpected expenses and mitigate losses from covid impacts. 

Olsen said administration does not expect to request emergency reserves to offset costs yet.