A substantial wage increase to attract more lifeguards and swimming instructors to Chilliwack was approved by city council Tuesday (May 3).
The hourly pay for qualified lifeguards and instructors is going from $15.80 up to $22 per hour, or $20 per hour for junior lifeguards, at the Chilliwack Landing Leisure Centre, Cheam Leisure Centre and Rotary Pool.
The pay boost is an “additional measure” to attract and retain pool staff on top of reducing training costs, according to the city press release of May 4.
“When Recreation Excellence first signed on to operate recreation facilities in Chilliwack, there is no way they could have known that they would have to deal with a global pandemic and the many issues that came with it, including staffing shortages,” said Mayor Ken Popove in the release. “We hope this wage increase will help attract and retain qualified lifeguards and swim instructors in Chilliwack in order to help meet the needs of our growing community.”
Chilliwack is not alone in this regard. Few training opportunities for lifeguards, restricted hours of operation, and staff seeking employment elsewhere due to pandemic restrictions, all contributed to shortages across the province.
The Chilliwack Progress reported in April about the frustrations boiling over in the community among families unable to register their kids in swimming lessons due to staff shortages.
Low wages were identified as a key part of the staffing problem.
“Based on a Google search for aquatics instructor job openings, an obvious problem for Chilliwack emerges.
“The Progress looked at a job board where jobs were offered in West Vancouver, Mission, Agassiz, Quesnel, Kamloops and Cranbrook, all offered starting wages between $23.20 and $30 an hour.”
City officials are embarking on a request for proposals process to shortlist recreation contractors seeking to manage and operate the three civic pool facilities given that the five-year agreement with Recreation Excellence expired.
The YMCA of Greater Vancouver, and Canadian Recreation Excellence, submitted request for qualifications in a bid for the right to operate the leisure centres and Rotary Pool for the next five years.
“As part of the request for proposals stage, proponents will be asked to ‘pay lifeguards and swim instructors a wage that is similar/comparable to nearby communities,’” according to the May 3 staff report to council.
“It is expected that staff will seek Council’s approval in July 2022, to award the contract to the preferred proponent.”
But before the new contract is awarded, there is an “immediate staffing concern” to be addressed, it continued.
“With course fees for lifeguard training costing $400 to $500 per course, they attempted to reduce that financial barrier
and offered their own certification courses for $100.
“Since the completion of the first course at a reduced rate, seven individuals have already applied for work at City of Chilliwack swimming pools,” the staff report said.
City staff had recommended in the report that starting wages be increased to $20 per hour for lifeguards and swim instructors, and to $18 per hour for junior lifeguards that require supervision. But in the end, council opted to approve even higher hourly pay, at $22 per hour, and $20 per hour respectively.
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