Looking to trim its recreation budget, Wellesley will reduce the amount of part-time work at its arenas. Specifically, cutting the hours of workers known as “net movers,” the ones responsible for removing the nets from the rink will the ice is being resurfaced and then putting them back in place.
The township expects to save about $12,500 annually by having the work done by the timekeepers at Twin Centre Minor Hockey games.
Tuesday night’s council decision was not without controversy, however, as residents decried the loss of job opportunities for students and young people.
“We live in a small town with no public transportation and a limited number of options for young people to work,” said Wellesley resident Jennifer Kays Sommer in an email to council. “I know the budget is important. So beyond safety and employment, fiscal responsibility is commendable. But could we look at other solutions?”
The student job issue was echoed in a letter from township resident Donna Herrgott.
“My concern is for the lack of employment in our area for students and/or people looking for a part-time job, now that the township has decided not to have net movers or have the food booths open.”
For its part, the township officials maintained that it does its best to employ students, but challenged the idea that it was their role to provide youth employment.
“One of the things that I heard time and time again, is that it’s the township’s responsibility to provide jobs for the youth,” said Mayor Joe Nowak. “And I’m not sure whether that is accurate or not, whether it is our responsibility. It’s nice when we can do it. But to say that it’s a part of the way we’re supposed to act is, I think, not quite accurate.”
“The township does try to employ students where we can,” added Rik Louwagie, the township’s chief administrative officer. “For example, last summer we hired an individual three to four months that took care of flower watering and grass treatment. That individual was full-time for four months.”
Cost was a significant factor in the decision. On top of wages of $13.37 to $14.24 per hour, which amounted to $11,172 last year, the township was responsible for deductions such as EI and CPP and vacation pay that added another $1,300 to the total.
The township also noted the net movers’ job involves only a few minutes of work during each hour of ice time, though they’re paid for the full hour.
In response, Kays Sommer suggested that other tasks be offered to those doing the job.
“Beyond keeping the stands and windows and floors cleaned, if the youth aren’t ‘busy’ on their shift, they could go outside the buildings and pick up litter around the arenas and even as far as the playgrounds – promoting an even cleaner and lovelier Township of Wellesley,” she said.
Officials noted, however, that there are limits on the extra duties that could be assigned to net movers, as full-time staff are available to keep the building in an orderly fashion. That said, the report determined that during high-traffic events, such as Applejacks’ games, tournaments and even minor hockey games, there is plenty of more work for a net mover. When there is no net mover present, the facility operator will perform the task instead.
Initially, the township suggested that referees move the nets, as is the practice in other municipalities, but the local referees felt it was not their responsibility. Twin Centre Minor Hockey has agreed to have their timekeepers move nets if the township provided proper safety gear and placed them under the township’s insurance policy as volunteers, to which Wellesley agreed.
Louwagie noted that there is no consensus for how this issue was handled across the province.
“I did have Dan (facilities maintenance coordinator Dan Mikel) survey the other recreation departments in the province,” said Louwagie at Tuesday’s council meeting. “He sent it to every recreation director through the ORFA (Ontario Recreation Facilities Association) group. And got several responses back, and the results were all over the map. Some had referees do it; some had net movers, some just had the facility operator. There was no consistency.”