CUPE sounds alarm about status of Mount Pearl HR probe, employee mental health

Standing outside Mount Pearl city hall late Tuesday afternoon, Kenneth Turner had a message for the councillors inside.

"We need this process to move forward, and we need to see an end result," said Turner, who serves as president of CUPE Local 2099.

"I think council has a duty and a responsibility to the workers of the city of Mount Pearl, and to their constituents, to see that this process is followed through, and that the results are made public."

That process is an HR investigation involving Mount Pearl chief administrative officer Steve Kent.

Rob Antle/CBC

Kent is off on a paid leave, as an out-of-province lawyer reviews allegations about his workplace interactions with city staff.

Turner told reporters he's heard that the investigation may wrap up early, and Kent could soon be back on the job.

"If this investigation was to conclude early, and Mr. Kent was to come back to work prior to the investigation being completed, I am certain that the anxiety levels of all workers within the city — not just bargaining unit members — will be heightened," Turner said.

In a text message to CBC News late Tuesday afternoon, Mount Pearl Mayor Dave Aker declined comment.

Last month, Kent said in an email he was aware that a "personnel-related process is underway" at the City of Mount Pearl.

"I have indicated that I am more than happy to co-operate and participate in the same," Kent wrote in late October.

"Given that the process is ongoing and this is an internal HR matter, I do not feel that it would be appropriate or respectful to comment further at this time."

Concerns about worker stress, mental health

CUPE, meanwhile, is also flagging concerns about the mental well-being of its members in Mount Pearl.

Turner released to reporters some results from a survey that he said was carried out by CUPE Local 2099, which represents about 140 permanent, full-time city staff, plus seasonal employees.

It found that nearly three in four of respondents worried that complaints to management would result in repercussions or other negative retaliation.

And more than four in five long-term employees said workplace morale has declined over the past decade.

Turner said workers are not willing to speak up.

"They are afraid," he said.