It might be nearing Christmas but Hay River town council is not in the giving mood when it comes to a little extra time off for municipal employees.
On Dec. 7, councillors rejected a recommendation from administration that employees get a half day off on Christmas Eve and another half day off on New Year’s Eve.
“In the past, council has granted the Town of Hay River staff half a day on Christmas Eve and half a day on New Year’s Eve off of work in the spirit of Christmas,” reads the recommendation from interim town manager Scotty Edgerton.
Several councillors pointed out there is a collective agreement in place to govern hours of work.
“We got stuck with this one before and here we are again,” said Coun. Vince McKay. “One of my big concerns is we have a collective agreement that we’re supposed to follow.”
Most other councillors echoed that opinion.
“Whatever the collective agreement says that’s what we need to stick by,” said deputy mayor Donna Lee Jungkind.
McKay and Jungkind did seem slightly agreeable to letting town administration decide if the half days off were warranted, even though they opposed the idea.
“How they want to manage their staff those afternoons is up to them to manage but my personal opinion is I’m not saying that I’m in agreement with having the office closed,” said Jungkind.
However, Edgerton said that is not the way things work.
“I would not do that personally but if you wanted to give it in the form of a motion then we would do it,” he said. “If not, we don’t do it.”
Coun. Steve Anderson was the only councillor who spoke in favour of the time off.
“Given the fact that it is Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and all the businesses in town close early, I don’t see why the town should be any different,” he said.
Jungkind countered that there is a difference in that town offices are paid for by all ratepayers, days off are allotted in the collective bargaining agreement, and not all businesses are closing at those hours.
“And if they are, it’s their own individual income and they’re the ones that are paying for it. They get to decide that,” she said. “This is something that’s paid for by our ratepayers. My feeling is we can’t work outside of whatever the collective bargaining agreement says.”
Coun. Keith Dohey and Coun. Mike Maher both pointed out the town went through a long process earlier this year – without actually using the word “strike” – to reach a collective agreement and said the town should stick to it.
The discussion took place at a meeting of council’s public works committee, and the recommendation was not carried forward to a regular meeting.
Later in the week, Mayor Brad Mapes, who said the half-days off were given in his three years as a councillor, was asked if this year’s rejection might have been caused by the six-month strike by municipal workers.
“It could be but I don’t believe that,” Mapes said. “I think it’s more that they’re kind of wanting to make sure that they follow the collective bargaining.”