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LETTER: Langley Township council has gone off the deep end with idea to add more pools

There isn’t enough staff for current pools so adding more won’t benefit community, letter writer says
The Township opened the Otter Co-op Outdoor Experience water park in 2018. Now council wants to open more pools but a local lifeguard is concerned about staffing. (Langley Advance Times files)

To the Township mayor,

Re: [Council jumps in pool, Langley Advance Times, Nov. 24]

I am writing to you not with the expectation that immediate change will ensue or that you will be able to fix any of these issues single handed. I’m hoping however that bringing these concerns to your attention will allow you to keep them in your radar as you influence decisions regarding the aquatics/recreation department in the Township of Langley.

I have been working as a lifeguard/swimming instructor for the Township of Langley since December 2013.

For the past five years, I’ve also worked as an aquatic supervisor (which involves mentorship/management of the lifeguards, tackling scheduling issues, coordination of the workday flow, handling and dealing with particularly abusive or unruly patrons, completing documented employee evaluations to assist management, and leadership in creating schedules, etc).

I get paid $1 extra an hour for that responsibility. There is no opportunity for an increase in wage for aquatic supervisors as they gain responsibility or seniority.

When I was hired in 2013, minimum wage was around $10.25. The starting wage for life guarding with the Township of Langley was $23.

Now minimum wage is $15.65 and the starting wage for a lifeguard at the Township of Langley is $23.91.

To become a lifeguard it costs around $1,500 initially to take all the appropriate courses and be certified. Following that, you will need a pair of reliable shoes ($100?) and a quality teaching swimsuit ($85) that the employer does not provide. These items need to be replaced around once per year for the average employee who generally works part-time.

At some fast food restaurants, you can get a job for $18.50 an hour (without any qualifications).

The cost of living in the past few years has shot up an insurmountable amount, and our wages haven’t budged. As covered by CBC and Global news, there are lifeguard shortages nation wide. A huge factor for this is that life-guarding is essentially a glorified minimum wage job now.

Specifically regarding the Township of Langley, the poor working conditions make it an unappealing place to be. With a collective agreement that has been expired for two years, continuous staff shortages and lack of employee value, it’s no wonder we have trouble retaining staff.

As for your grand plan to build a new community centre in Willoughby, I not only find this proposal frustrating, but personally insulting.

I would like to ask you why you think it is appropriate to allocate tax dollars towards building a new community centre/pool when current existing TOL aquatics staff are underpaid/overworked and exasperated? I would like to also ask you how you plan to motivate people to join the life-guarding world and want to work at this new pool when the current employment conditions are so deeply atrocious?

While a new facility in theory is exciting and an asset to the community, I believe any good employer recognizes that the valuable employees that staff and run that facility deserve to prioritized and taken care of. I also believe that the current three facilities we have are under-utilized.

Opening a new facility will not help ease the difficulty of getting into swimming lessons, when the pools we currently have are not full.

The issue is a lack of staff and qualified instructors. The issue is that there is no motivation for current staff to want to teach lessons (which can be exhausting when done for 3.5 hours at a time), when the wage is insufficient for the work being done.

I look forward to your response, and I hope to hear how the new council and leadership plan to truly value recreation, and specifically aquatics staff so we can rebuild a robust department for years to come, and make this workplace a good place to work again.

Sarah Vanderveen, Murrayville


• READ MORE: Aldergrove not forgotten: Township mayor


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