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City staff overtime hours still up from pre-pandemic levels

The city has been exceeding its annual overtime budget in recent years, with last year’s 183,028 paid overtime hours far exceeding the city’s budget of 28,812 hours
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Tom Davies Square.

The city’s annual budgets for overtime hours are routinely exceeded several times over, and remains higher than the pre-pandemic base year of 2019.

In 2023, the city budgeted 28,812 hours for unionized staff overtime pay, but by the time they hit Dec. 31, it had reached 183,028 hours.

There’s a similar story for each of the five years included in a report tabled this week by city Financial Planning and Budgeting Manager Liisa Lenz, beginning with a low of 140,747 overtime hours recorded in 2019.

The report was requested by Ward 4 Paulin Fortin in January, following her unsuccessful bid the previous month to pare down city overtime budgets by 25 per cent.

In December 2023, city Corporate Services general manager Kevin Fowke forecast the report tabled this week, clarifying that the amount budgeted for overtime “is less than we require by a significant measure in terms of actuals. Some of those are because people haven't shown up to work or we have vacancies, so that budget is contained somewhere else in salaries and benefits.”

Lenz’s report outlines the reason for overtime and the funding source for each department’s overtime expense. The most common source is savings in salaries.

Lenz’s report covers 2019-2023. A similar number of hours is budgeted for overtime each year (24,680 to 29,073), despite the number of overtime hours worked ranging from 140,747 (2019) to 251,572 (2021). 

Non-union staff are not paid for overtime, so there’s no set budget amount for them.

Non-union overtime hours

  • 2019: 31,804 (4.9 per cent of regular hours worked)
  • 2020: 32,237 (5.6 per cent)
  • 2021: 49,235 (8 per cent)
  • 2022: 42,549 (6.4 per cent)
  • 2023: 47,554 (7.1 per cent)

Union overtime hours

(The annual budget for hours ranged from 24,680 to 29,073)

  • 2019: 140,747 (4.8 per cent of regular hours worked)
  • 2020: 151,942 (5.2 per cent)
  • 2021: 251,572 (8.5 per cent)
  • 2022: 211,615 (7 per cent)
  • 2023: 183,028 (5.7 per cent)

“The City’s use of overtime is generally to address gaps in permanent staff and has historically remained at manageable levels,” according to Lenz’s report, which the finance and administration committee of city council will discuss on May 22.

“Absence of a regularly scheduled employee is the primary driver of overtime hours. Urgent repair or emergency work is also a significant driver. These situations are difficult to predict.”

The city’s five-year average total absence rate is 14 per cent, including a total 54,674 work days per year (31 days per employee, on average). This number includes such things as sick leave, WSIB claims and COVID leaves, but excludes such things as banked time, jury duty and vacation.

Absences due to WSIB (23 per cent), short-term disability (29 per cent) and longterm disability (33 per cent) make up the majority of absences.

COVID-related lost-time claims included four cases in 2020, followed by 16 in 2021, 198 in 2022 and 89 in 2023. 

When tabling her motion in January, Fortin flagged Fire Services overtime as a point of concern.

Recent hires within Fire Services, approved during municipal budget deliberations, were explained as a means of paring down ballooning overtime costs.

Within Fire Services, Lenz’s report records zero overtime hours for non-union staff in 2019 and 2020, but it has exceeded 2,000 hours per year since.

A similar trend followed unionized Fire Services staff. There were 22,366 hours of overtime recorded in 2019, it jumped to a peak of 66,427 hours in 2022 and has since fallen to 60,372 in 2023.

“Generally, overtime was needed to meet council-approved service levels relating to 24/7 fire service response and meet minimum staffing levels for operational requirements,” according to Lenz’s report. “On average, three overtime shifts are required per day to meet minimum staffing levels.”

A 2020 arbitration bolstering service in The Valley increased overtime hours, while an increase in legislative training requirements also affected overtime as members worked to meet certification requirements.

These reports will be discussed during the May 22 finance and administration committee of city council. The meeting can be viewed in-person at Tom Davies Square beginning at 6 p.m. or livestreamed by clicking here.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.


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Tyler Clarke

About the Author: Tyler Clarke

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.
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