Saturday, September 22, 2007

Enhanced Mediation

Friday it was announced that after three days of talking each side would agree to "enhanced mediation."

The City and CUPE will submit their respective positions to Brian Foley who as "enhanced mediator" will review and craft an enhanced non-binding agreement.

CUPE members (15 and 1004) will vote to either accept or reject the enhanced offer. City senior managers will review the enhanced proposal and decide whether it is acceptable.

Settlement of this dispute required third party intervention. I have believed that since the start of this strike.
Remember, this is a personal grudge match between two sets of negotiators. It will take outside intervention / pressure to bring them together and bargain. Civic Strike Time Lines - July 31

The endgame to this strike will be binding arbitration. CUPE 15 Bargainers Top 3 Issues - Aug. 21
It's not binding arbitration but at least a third party is now involved.

Mark Thompson, a professor emeritus at the Sauder School of Business at University of B.C astutely said in the Vancouver Sun article Vote coming in long-running civic strike:
Approving Foley's recommendations allows both sides to save face as well, said Thompson.

"It's non-binding, so neither side has to say, 'We knuckled under,'" he said.
The issues are ideological and personal. The wage and term component (18.76% compounded over 5 years) was the simple element of this dispute. Commentators like Bill Good and Christie Clark can't seem to wrap their heads around that. They instead repeat:
  • "whatever financial gains were won in the contract are now lost from the length of the strike."
Ideology drives this strike. CUPE believes that only public sector union members should work in publicly funded organizations. Privatization is portrayed as an evil which breaches the public trust.

Fear has ensured it's length. Professor Thompson notes that "each side is weary from the length of the strike" but with so much time and lost wages invested by those who believe their jobs will be privatized it will be difficult to accept an offer without "No Layoff's due to Contracting Out."

The City's initial "take it or leave it approach" and attempting to set Port Moody's 39 month / 9.75% as the regional template failed. Municipalities worked independent of Vancouver and struck deals with their unionized staff. Vancouver has not only ensured a rocky relationship with it's staff but has also lost significant political capital in the region as noted in the Vancouver Courier article Suburban soundoff.

City management faces the challenge of increased residential taxation, as directed by council, increased employment costs and the high cost of operating in Vancouver. Agreeing to CUPE's demand of "No Layoffs Due to Contracting Out" is not feasible. Flexibility is required. A mix of public and private staff where customer service and adaptability are the primary measures.

CUPE 15 auxiliaries must remain scheduled by talent and skill instead of by length of time served. Many of these jobs are entry level and provide opportunities for new young staff to get their foot in the door. The City, in it's last offer, did state that it would work with CUPE in identifying auxiliary positions that should be reclassified as regular part time or regular full time.

Reclassification of current employees is where the City can be flexible. The Vancouver Sun story Job reclassification is a sticky wicket describes how Strathcona Community Centre programmer Ron Suzuki has been working on job reclassification since 1997.

Mr. Suzuki is the type of employee a company wants. He raised, this year, $250,000.00 for low income families to participate in breakfast and recreational programs. If the City is concerned about retaining and attracting new staff then people like Mr. Suzuki should not be treated in such a callous manner.

I do believe that the enhanced mediation will succeed but the vote will be close.

When the enhanced offer is finally released I will review it and write what I believe will be the challenges for either side.

Remember even if CUPE 15 and 1004 vote to accept the enhanced offer the strike continues until CUPE 391 Library Workers accept their offer.


Anonymous said...

Why would resolution of Cupe 391 be necessary before Cupe 15 & 1004 can go back to work (provided that Brian Foley's mediation works). Aren't we negotiating separately now??

Picket Boy said...

At the start of the strike union leadership stated that no one goes back to work until all three locals settle.

Even though they are negotiating separately the goal of not going back to work until all 3 locals settle still stands.