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posted February 6, 2006

Letter to the general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation,

February 6, 2006

Dear Brenda,
The Toronto Star says this morning that you are offended by the rink comments on our web site. I am forwarding you my memo of what's wrong (below), which I sent to Tino DeCastro this morning.

The real shocker here is the inaction of management in the face of what I've described in that memo. Because of that inaction I was finally led to call the rink meeting, which led the Star to call me. They misquoted me, as media pieces always do. The Local 416 workers give us lots of ice maintenance, but at crucial times (warm weather, wet weather) they sit on their hands. When they are criticized, they get nasty instead of figuring out how to collaborate better.

It's respectful collaboration, sharing a desire to make things work, that's needed. The intention is there in a number of your staff, but the follow-up is lacking. I have tried to work in any way I can think of, for follow-up, and follow-through. If you consider my memo (NOT my misquoted remarks in the Star), I believe you'll see a way to address this situation. There is a larger problem in your Division, and our rink is the canary in the mine.


Original Message
Subject: please forward these concerns for response
Date: Mon, 06 Feb 2006 08:21:21

Dear Tino,

Since you are the lead on the outdoor rinks in your area, please pass on the following concerns to the relevant people:

I believe that the outdoor city rink maintenance side is in serious trouble and immediate intervention by management is necessary. Here are the problems:

a) at Dufferin Rink, by forcing all the rink users inside the rink house during ice maintenance -- the only reason this was even manageable this past weekend is the low census caused by the unpleasantness of the weather. It is unworkable for the many events we have coming up, e.g. the annual bikes-on-ice race, the Harbourfront-style dance night, the annual "Puppets on Ice" event, the upcoming shinny hockey tournament with kids from Jimmie Simpson and Regent Park, the farmers' market, the community suppers. Forcing all rink users into the rink house is like getting all the skaters at City Hall penned into an enclosure like cattle every time the zamboni comes out. This will not have good consequences.
b) at Campbell Rink yesterday, zamboni drivers sabotaged the Sunday campfire event by their insistence on closing the gates that gave pleasure skaters access to the campfire
c) programming is undermined by poor ice maintenance, making it necessary to close the rink during peak demand, when other outdoor rinks are functioning well e.g. City Hall and Harbourfront (see my on-line outdoor rink reports, RinkReports).

a) dangerous behaviour -- e.g. (1) the zamboni driver's approach to the carpenters last week when they came to fix zamboni board damage -- management can follow up with on-site rink staff or the head carpenter for the story. (2) Refusal of the zamboni driver to stop driving when on-site staff wanted to speak to him on Saturday, forcing staff to dodge the zamboni. (3) Zamboni drivers proceeding onto the ice without giving sufficient warning to on-site rink staff, so that they can get people out of the way (this despite the supervisor's safety protocol)
b) bullying, rudeness, inappropriate behaviour toward on-site rink staff by zamboni drivers -- staff have tried to document this within the last two weeks, without gaining management's interest so far. The behaviours are observed and commented on by many rink users as well, not only by me. This is turned around by the zamboni drivers, who have frequently told on-site staff that they're (1) too friendly with the community, and (2) can't get along with anyone (from the maintenance crew). The zamboni drivers and their supervisor may be convinced that the problems lies with the unreasonableness of Dufferin rink users or staff, but I have been documenting incidents with zamboni drivers for over ten years and I am certainly able to furnish a list of questionable, dangerous, destructive, or mentally unstable behaviour by rink operators during that time and up to the present. At least some of it, I assume, is corroborated in your division's own records.

a) unnecessarily using zamboni drivers as rink guards at Dufferin Rink, when they could be doing ice maintenance elsewhere -- only one zamboni driver is needed at any given site, and his business is scraping or flooding the ice -- this is how our rink has been maintained for years, without injury
b) substandard ice maintenance, requiring up to 40% more hydro to run the compressors (ice should be kept at two inches instead of 4 - 7 inches). This problem is created by the policy of having zamboni drivers stay idle when the ice is soft enough to scrape lower, and not to remove water after rain, before it freezes higher

a) lack of response to appeals by me, and also by on-site rink staff, to management for over two weeks now, warning of the worsening situation
b) unilateral action, such as (1) "protocols" for recreation staff developed solely by maintenance staff, with new rules proliferating so fast that the zamboni drivers themselves break these protocols as soon as they're devised; and such as (2) steps taken to change procedures without consultation, e,.g. zamboni drivers suddenly not allowing skaters on one pad while the other is being flooded
c) no discipline of zamboni drivers when they break protocols or schedules, e.g. (1) the zamboni driver who did NOT stop when a rink staff person blew the whistle to stop, even though that was an imperative in the protocol; (2) the zamboni driver ignoring the agreed-upon Dufferin Rink program schedule so that he and another driver on site could leave their shift early, as was the case in the incident that began all this
d) questionable use of employee health and safety legislation, without appropriate guidance from management
e) no collaboration with everyone involved in running outdoor ice rinks, in the interests of skaters

I would like to get a response from management registering that each of these concerns is being addressed. These issues will be raised at tomorrow evening's public rink meeting, so a response today is needed.

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