Politics

Clark: Ousted Councillors Should Get Severance

By RTH Staff
Published April 03, 2009

The Spectator reports that Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark (Stoney Creek) thinks Councillors voted out of office should receive severance pay. He wants staff to examine what other cities do and report back to Council.

"We have to treat politicians with respect," argues Clark, pointing out that workers laid off from other jobs receive severance pay.

What do you think?

(h/t to Robert D for noticing the Spec article)

19 Comments

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By damn politicians (anonymous) | Posted April 03, 2009 at 14:00:55

Getting voted out is kind of like getting fired. Last time I checked, fired employees don't get severance (except CEOs and there golden hand shakes).

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted April 03, 2009 at 14:26:46

I'm all for reforming how our politicians get compensated but they are basically contract employees. If they lose an election that means their bosses didn't renew the contract due to their performance. I really can't see why they should get severance.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted April 03, 2009 at 14:43:46

@UrbanRenaissance - Your take really makes a lot of sense, only problem I can see is that politicians already get fat pensions, which is a break from how contract workers are compensated.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted April 03, 2009 at 14:55:28

Nobrainer, I agree that the comparison isn't perfect but for me what it boils down to is: if you are not re-elected then your bosses felt you weren't doing a good job and were fired for it. As you said they already get a pension, so why would we want to further reward someone who didn't adequately do their job in the first place?

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By Frank (registered) | Posted April 03, 2009 at 15:05:49

Equating it to a matter of respect is kind of backwards in my opinion. You need to do your job to get respect and in a public position, that means your job is to keep your constituents satisfied. If you don't, they "fire" you by not re-electing you and as such, you shouldn't get severance. If you're not re-elected, you're not getting an equivalent to being laid off, you're getting fired...plain and simple.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted April 03, 2009 at 15:09:52

He must be worried that he hasn't done a good job this term...

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By hunter (anonymous) | Posted April 03, 2009 at 15:46:52

honestly, could a politician be more out of touch? simply ludicrous.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 03, 2009 at 17:04:45

Don MacLean of all people, has an interesting perspective on this over at hallmarks:

It's sad that nearly all these comments seem motivated by hatred of politicians, and apparently rules of fairness don't apply to them. We ask our elected representatives to set aside their normal job or career and SERVE the public interest. Then we treat them like the lowest of the low. Why should anyone take up this job? They are supposed to be the main voice of the public interest in our democratic system - the ones we ask to prevent and punish crimes and to oversee, regulate and control the private profit-seeking that is the central principle of our economic system. Recently some folks have noticed that CEOs and others have been rather generously paid and have been getting away with activities that are very damaging to their employees and other members of the public. What should be done about this? Well, of course, government should fix it - while we smug citizens throw rotten eggs at our representatives. Who exactly is served by this demeaning of our representatives?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted April 03, 2009 at 22:37:44

First of all thanks for the news credit.

The rules regarding severance are statutory in nature. They originated with the legislature and city council can of course pass their own rules as well. However if they pass legislation which the citizens of Hamilton disagree with it is likely that they will find themselves very unpopular very quickly. Still, they may do so at their risk, and I do think it's a big risk right now because the citizens of Hamilton seem overwhelming opposed according to the Spectator's online pole.

One of the posts suggests that this is all about respect, and how people have a lack of respect for politicians. I strongly disagree with the assertion that I should respect them because they gave up their "normal job/career" to serve the city. It was their choice to do so, and I will not respect someone for that any more than any other person who chooses to change careers. I don't know why we should respect politicians more than any other hardworking citizen, or any other person who switches careers. Politicians are not all motivated by noble intentions, and to paint them all with the same brush is an oversimplification. I don't usually dole out respect based solely on type of employment.

By framing this as an issue of respect I think that Mr. Clark has missed the mark. Severance pay is not designed to "respect" workers, it's designed to ease their transition to a new job where they have been given inadequate notice of their pending termination. Contract workers with fixed end dates do not get severance pay. Workers who get sufficient notice of their upcoming termination do not get severance pay. Workers unexpectedly fired due to a change in economic circumstances do get severance pay.

My guess is that city councillors have little trouble transitioning to a new job. They make a plethora of contacts during their time in office and I haven't heard of many former politicians ending up at McDonalds because they can't find any other job. But let's leave that aside. City councillors are by their nature, more like contract workers than regular employees. They have fixed start and end dates for their terms. They can apply for another term (like interviewing for a new contract position) and there is no guarantee they will be successful. As a result there is very little in the way of a rationale for why they deserve severance pay. The prudent politician will prepare for the possibility that they will not win the election by establishing contact with potential employers, perhaps even interviewing, getting job offers, just as a contract employee would. It's hardly the fault of the taxpayers that the politician overestimated his chances of "getting the contract." As I already suggested getting hired somewhere else should hardly be a problem given the contacts they make.

Finally, I'll say let's go ahead with Clark's study, because studies don't bind us to action, they simply provide us with more facts and information. Let's pay attention to the quality of politicians these cities that offer severance are attracting and compare them to cities that don't offer severance. Let's also compare what happens at the provincial/state and federal levels both in Canada and the US. Just because other cities offer severance packages doesn't mean that the talent they attract is any better. If higher levels of government don't offer severance it can also be rather telling. Finally let's also look at how soon after losing an election past councillors have found alternative employment. Maybe we'll all be pleasantly surprised to learn they quickly find alternate employment and don't need severance at all!

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 03, 2009 at 22:55:51

Robert D: If Bill 139 is passed, then those workers who are considered as contract, temp, will get more rights under employment standards, which will hopefully include severance.

Many who are contract workers are denied many rights under employment standards and just because an employer wants to deem someone as contract or self employed, they may not be so deemed.

Anyways approximately 37% of all workers today do not have access to the many rights workers fought and died for.

So I guess my point is that if the councillors want severance pay, they better well make sure that that includes a whole range of other workers that have missed the boat as well.

What is good for the goose, is good for the gander.

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By C. Erl (registered) - website | Posted April 03, 2009 at 23:26:09

Mr. Clark makes an interesting suggestion. One problem though.

Municipal politicians actually have to be thrown out of office for his suggestion to even make sense. Sure, he beat out an incumbent, but we all know the statistic (73/75 reelected) that lends much truth to Mr. Cooke's comment that municipal politicians need only have a pulse to win on election night.

Rather disheartening, but it doesn't mean it isn't possible.

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By Meville (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2009 at 10:48:01

Ugh, I kinda hope that temp worker/contract thing doesn't go through. We have employees who are on consulting basis so we don't have to do paperwork, and we pay more per hour and hire more people due to that. I'm all for rights in terms of safety, equity, etc, but adding to the paperwork of people who employ consultants/self-employed will just discourage the use of it, particularly in nonprofit sectors. Generous individuals who want to see the direct impact of their money would likely hold back their money if they knew they had to fill out a tonne of paperwork. I know we would, or we would at least lower the pay per hour so we can afford to hire HR people to do it for us.. at that point, might as well just donate the money to another bureaucratic agency rather than create our own.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 04, 2009 at 11:36:07

Melville: What additional paperwork are you talking about? There is a set of criteria under the federal statues to determine if one is self employed (contract) or an employee.

Bill 139 is to give workers a voice, protection under the law, to improve employment standards rights that have been eradicated by Elect to Work policy. There also has to be emphasis under enforcement of the law, which is clearly lacking for many workers today in precarious employment.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 04, 2009 at 18:11:50

Melville: I noticed that you said this " we would at least lower the pay per hour so we can afford to hire HR people to do it for us.."

Why do you have to hire HR people, as a manager do you not know payroll and all that is involved?

How many small business people have to wear many hats, yet someone like you, who is probably paid big bucks, does what exactly?

It could be that you are the one that is obsolete and needs to move on if other workers are to get a fair shake as they say.

Yes, threaten the workers with lower wages if they do not fall into line. If you ask me maybe there needs to be more scrutiny on people like yourself instead of the front line workers. Just a thought you know!

Sometimes too much emphasis is put on consultants, if you ask me.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted April 07, 2009 at 09:36:04

Grassroots, it's obvious you feel you've been hard done by with respect to contract positions. However, I feel you're being over enthusiastic when you say that many contract workers are denied many rights... I know quite a few contract workers who signed up for a job and aren't denied any rights. Also, I'm not aware of workers fighting and dying for their rights. When you sign up for a contract position, it's your responsibility to ensure that your rights are clearly outlined and explained. Making an uninformed decision is not the responsibility of the employer, it's that of the employee.

Perhaps, if you're actually trying to fight for the rights of workers, you should take a look at those who use a head hunter or job agency to find a position. If anything, they're the ones getting short changed.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 07, 2009 at 19:47:28

Frank: I guess it depends on what you deem as rights? And there are many workers that are fighting for their rights and yes some workers do get injuried or die on the job.

And your wrong, an employer has due diligence in ensuring that they are following the "law". Check out the story on Esquire Canada, in this story it does not seem that anyone was following the "law" and since a Ministry of Labour representative at the time of the cororner's inquest stated the the government is not in the business of worker safety but that of enforcement, too bad the MOL had not been in the plant for 4 years, it has to leave one wondering.

Did you know that the Temp Workers Rights/Action group spoke in front of the standing committee in Toronto last week on behalf of temp workers here in Hamilton on Bill 139?

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By JonC (registered) | Posted April 07, 2009 at 22:30:50

I don't feel that you can equate legal malfeasance with Clark wanting severance when his contract isn't renewed (which isn't the same as getting laid off, as he would imply). It's a possibility he should have taken into consideration when getting into politics.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted April 13, 2009 at 12:23:51

Grassroots my point is this: I've held many positions both contractual and not and never has information such as wage, hours of work, termination arrangements etc been withheld. It was my responsibility to read this information.

A politician enters into the position knowing that after their term of 4 years they are up for re-election should the choose. It's their responsibility to perform their duties adequately in order for them to retain their position. If they don't, they are NOT entitled to severance pay and they know that before they get into it. If Clark was actually fighting for rights, he should stipulate that it starts with whoever take his position next. As it stands, it stinks of "I don't want to do my job properly and I don't think I'm going to get re-elected but I still want to get my fat salary for a while".

As a point of reference, my post was started before you posted about Bill 139 and I got sidetracked by work. A politician is not placed by a temporary agency which is what Bill 139 covers and while that may bode well for my earlier comment about those employed by them, it doesn't mean that a politician is entitled to severance pay.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 13, 2009 at 23:05:29

Frank: Yes, you are right, the Bill 139 is geared toward temp workers but there are other workers who are deemed as "contract", self employed but are actually employees. There are many precarious workers out there.

Do I think they, the councillors should get severance pay, no I do not. They are "elected".

I wonder what Mr Clark's opinion would be? A worker in our community had a same temp asssignment for over a year, the worker had a family emergency and called in. The worker was terminated, no notice, no severance, the worker had to fight for EI and was denied, thus pushing the worker onto social services. Should not of this worker had been entitled not only to severance but EI a well, since it was the employer, the temp company that was allowed to use fear and intimidation and to deny the worker to any reasonable sense of fair play and justice.

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