Friday, September 14, 2007

Great Comment Worth Reading

Post removed at request of writer.

32 comments:

spartikus said...

Good comment indeed.

Though I'm frustrated that there are so many pro and anti union commentators alike.

It's so simple to have a completely secure, anonymous alias....

I'd like to tell you all apart.

Just sayin'

;)

Anonymous said...

I notice on your blogger profile that you remain anonymous because of rules brought in by the NPA in '95. Do these rules cover all City employees or just accountants stationed in Afghanistan? (My question is serious).

Anonymous said...

I think in hindsight CUPE should have had a much longer period of job action short of an actual strike. I think CUPE's strategy was that a lot of lower mainland locals would go on strike in a coordinated way to increase pressure on the municipalities. And it worked in getting the 17.5/5yr offer. But now that a lot of the other locals have settled, that offer is now the ceiling for Vancouver locals. The contract language issues, while thorny, should be agreed to be discussed AFTER the strike. Does this weaken CUPE's position; Yes, but that can't be helped now.

I think its kind of crazy and hypocritical to pout that its illegal for the City to bargain slowly but then suggest that CUPE should stay on strike till presumably a VISION election victory.

spartikus said...

I think accountants stationed in Afghanistan are in the clear. And it was 2005.

I think in hindsight CUPE should have had a much longer period of job action short of an actual strike.

The City's choice of presenting a "final offer" to Cupe15 made that approach impossible. There was no choice at the point.

The Blackbird said...
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Anonymous said...

Look, I know its a left wing fantasy, but NO COURT in the land is going to overturn a settlement collectively bargained. If CUPE can't get what it wants in talks with its employer its not going to get any payment in the court. Even if the court was full of Kool-aid drinking socialists they couldn't grant it because ITS NOT CONSTITUTIONAL. Courts have no taxing powers. As for unfair bargaining, its not unfair to say, "No". Every prayer is answered, but sometimes the answer is 'no'. I smile at the union members who are incensed that because they're on strike then automatically things should be resolved in their favour. When you took the strike vote, somebody should have told you thats its fully possible to LOSE, and get nothing for the sacrifice of two months (and counting) wages. Its way past time for CUPE to cut its losses and move on. 1004 is not going to get more than 17.5% and for the Union to put 18% out there is just petulance. The longer the strike goes, the less it becomes about worker fairness and more about how the CUPE leadership see themselves as battling some socialist rearguard action against capitalism. Give it up comrades!!

The Blackbird said...
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The Blackbird said...
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spartikus said...

I'm fairly certain the NPA's "no criticism" rules wouldn't stand to a court challenge, and yes I think while on strike we are not technically employees. And in fact I'm fairly confident that my direct employer - VPL - wouldn't care. But given the pettiness displayed by Sullivan, Ladner, Capri and Anton I wouldn't bet my house on the matter.

As well, a member of our bargaining committee told us a while ago that an agreement by the employer not to retaliate has to be included in every collective agreement.

Anonymous said...

CUPE isn't against dictatorship; they just need democracy long enough to get their own Stalin in charge. Blackbird claims there's a class war on, if thats the case I'm fighting for the side thats AGAINST socialism.

hostage said...

Well with this Provincial government in power, exemplified by the way the LRB is acting, there's no way in Hades a union would get a favourable decision with this new crap the City is trying to pull by having a 'special mediator' appointed by the labour minister. It took 6 weeks for a hearing on illegal Coin Collection by City Management, and 2 weeks later we're still waiting for a ruling! The 'take it or strike' approach by the City is boarding on bargaining in bad faith, but even the bc supreme court prob. wouldn't rule in our favour, but watch out, there's still a supreme court of canada. they did rule in favour of the anti-union way of doing business by our provincial government in the heu dispute, albeit a few years too late.

The Blackbird said...
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Anonymous said...

Sheesh. I can't believe you union people complaining about the settlement you're going to get as being unfair. 18.7% over 5 years, plus your annual COLA?!?!!?! Get a life. Go work in the private sector and see if you get anything even close to that. And that's before your gold-plated benefits and jobs-for-life.

Seems to me like y'all have been living in cushy public-sector land too long. Maybe it's time to try the real world where the rest of us taxpayers live.

The Blackbird said...
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spartikus said...

plus your annual COLA?!?!!?!

What annual COLA? There is no COLA in any proposed contract, City or CUPE

Maybe it's time to try the real world where the rest of us taxpayers live.

City workers are on the frontlines helping those with mental illness, homelessness, general poverty. And you pee on them.

It never ceases to amaze me how right-wing commentators across the blogosphere will rarely directly discuss or use actual issues and data, instead choosing to make things up - whether that be the content of collective bargaining agreements or whether Iraq has a nuclear weapons program - or pick on irrelevant side issues. Like, say, Picket Boy's anonymity.

Speaks volumes on the robustness of their worldview.

Anonymous said...

That's funny, Spartikus, all of the things you just said about right-wing commentators apply equally well to the left. You say you don't like people who raise "irrelevant side issues", and then you go on to talk about the Iraq War. Hmmm.

Blackbird makes a good point -- which I don't consider particularly "right wing" by the way -- so why don't you answer it rather than indulging in ad hominem attacks? Focus on the question: why do public sector workers deserve better wages, benefits and job security than you would receive in the private sector?

You fact that you are on the frontlines against poverty, etc., etc. is, frankly, irrelevant. Sure, public sector workers do all kinds of important and useful work, but so do the folks in the private sector who pay their salaries. Can you really be suggesting that the type of work you do entitles you to a uniquely privileged position?

spartikus said...

You say you don't like people who raise "irrelevant side issues", and then you go on to talk about the Iraq War.

Except I was making a broader point about the right-wing in general.

And I wasn't addressing Blackbird either, but anonymous @ 9:41 AM. I even included portions of that comment to help you tell.

why do public sector workers deserve better wages, benefits and job security than you would receive in the private sector?


Because in 2 of those you don't. If you have statistics to prove otherwise, I'll retract. But I know in my own position I could earn 30-40% more with the same benefits in the private sector.

Can you really be suggesting that the type of work you do entitles you to a uniquely privileged position?

Again, no one has proposed "a uniquely privileged position". It's a fiction, invented by militant anti-unionists.

spartikus said...

I just want to add, in a question directed at anonymous @ 9:26 PM that anonymous @ 9:41 AM made up a piece of information - that civic workers receive an annual COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment).

Yet you were offended by my objection to that. Why? Would you not agree that when you are engaged in a debate with someone, and you invent facts to undermine their argument, you are displaying a profound disrespect towards them.

And again, if you can cite otherwise, I'll happily stand corrected. The City's latest offers can be found on the main page of it's website.

Anonymous said...

Hit a nerve, haven't I spartikus? As to the first point, you were making a "broader point about the right wing" by using the very tactic that you revile them for. That is a hypocritical avoidance tactic.

As to the second point, you know I am referring to public sector workers as a group. If you could personally earn 30-40% more in the private sector, that's fabulous. But for the vast majority of your brothers and sisters, my statement is verifiably correct and you know it. Public sector workers, on average, enjoy wages, benefits and job security that are superior to those in the private sector. Here's just one study from the year 2000: http://www.cfib.ca/research/reports/WW_AB.pdf. Here's one of the findings: "Municipal employees in public administration enjoy an 11.4% wage premium over their private sector counterparts—14.2%
when non-wage benefits are included."

Why should that be? Stop trying to wriggle off the hook and answer the question spartikus. Why do public sector union members deserve more than the average Joe and Jill?

spartikus said...

That is a hypocritical avoidance tactic.

Actually, you're proving my point for me, but I digress....

As to the second point, you know I am referring to public sector workers as a group.

You get props - seriously - for an actual citation, but this is the "news release" version. A fuller report of the same study, found here, is worth delving into. This passage I found particularly relevant:

The average wage of the 109,395 local public administration employees in these occupations was $43,534 (expressed in current 2000 dollars). This compares to an average wage of $40,016 for the 3.9 million private employees in the
same occupations.

Wage premiums favouring local public administration are commonly found in trade related occupations.
Construction trades, for example, are paid, on average, 18.3 per cent more than their private sector
counterparts. Managerial occupations in retail trade, on the other hand, typically earned 92 per cent of the wages earned by their private sector counterparts.


I also took note of one of the conclusions:

There is currently insufficient data available in a timely fashion to conduct wage comparisons.

But I'll grant that your study - from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, using data from the year 2000 - indicates some municipal workers, particularly those in the trades, are compensated at a higher level than their private sector counterparts. And it's clear that the CFIB feels it's desirable for public sector wages to decline, rather than private sector wages to rise.

I'll note that two Canadian economists, using later data calculates that the private sector had caught up in 2002. His report is worth reading too - I encourage everyone to do so - and I'll leave with a paragraph from it's conclusion:

Not only is the journal literature on Canadian public-private sector wage differentials dated but it presents empirical results with greater confidence than is warranted. We have therefore highlighted limitations of the estimation techniques, the best available data, and economic theory with respect to public-private sector wage differentials.

We answer "No" to the question posed in the title of this paper -- "Are estimates of a public sector wage premium reliable?" We do believe, however, that it is possible to get a better handle on public-private sector wage differentials through further research.

spartikus said...

Another point: the CFIB study compares private and pubic sectors, not unionized and non-unionized workforces.

Belgian said...

Yet you were offended by my objection to that. Why?

Finally, I see this question was not answered.

Is inventing facts acceptable to you, anonymous @ 9:26 AM/8:36 PM?

Did you make the original claim that civic workers receive an annual COLA?

Anonymous said...

The paper by Professors MacLean and Vincent notes numerous problems with the techniques used to estimate the “wage gap”, as well as the quality of the dataset. But they do NOT conclude that there is no longer a wage gap, only that more research is needed before a definitive conclusion can be made. They note, “Using Model 3 and the decomposition technique, which probably gives the “best” estimates from the standpoint of economic reasoning, the estimated public-private wage differential is 4 percent for men and 5 percent for women with an industry-based definition of the public sector.”

A similar conclusion is reached by a discussion paper, “Government Compensation: Issues and Options”, prepared by Morley Gunderson, a professor at the University of Toronto, in July 1998: http://www.cprn.org/documents/18374_fr.pdf . Professor Gunderson also notes difficulties in techniques and data sets, and cautions that most of the empirical studies are based on data for the 1970s and early 1980s. Nevertheless, he concludes, “In spite of that variation, certain generalizations can be made about the Canadian evidence.” First, “Government employees do appear to be paid more than comparable non-government employees, with the wage gap being around 5 to 10 percent,” although this pay advantage is “dissipating over time”. The pay advantage is “higher for low-wage employees and lower (and likely even negative) for high-wage employees.” Further, “Within the government sector the pay advantage tends to be highest at the local level, then the provincial level, and then the federal level.”

So a public-private wage differential of about 5 percent seems to be the Canadian consensus at this point. Note that this is after correcting for factors like education and length of service. Further, this figure does NOT include the impact of fringe benefits. Professor Gunderson points out: “Limited evidence suggests that fringe benefits are higher in the government sector than in the nongovernment sector so that the total compensation advantage is likely to be larger than the wage advantage.”

OK, back to the question, spartikus. You know ... the question you have consistently avoided answering. Fill in the blank: “Government workers deserve significantly better wages, benefits and job security than their counterparts in the private sector because _________.”

I don’t just persist to see you squirm, spartikus – though that’s fun. I do it because public sector strikes are commonly framed in moralistic tones: “value”, “respect”, “fairness”. It seems that many union members truly believe that they “deserve” a better deal than their counterparts in the private sector. I find this fascinating and I want to understand how you can possibly justify this blatant unfairness.

Final note to Belgian: no, I was not the author of the initial claim about the COLA. Inventing facts – or even getting them wrong -- is a bad thing. Why was I offended by spartikus’ response? Because s/he hypocritically ducked the issue and indulged in personal attacks and irrelevant comments. Anonymous @ 9:41 represents many frustrated people out there, and deserves a response.

The Blackbird said...
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Anonymous said...

Do city workers advance up the pay scale in their particular pay grade every year, until they reach the top of the scale? Like other public sector workers?
I accept it was wrong to call this a COLA, but it has the same effect. Workers get an annual increase over and above the increase negotiated in the contract, so the total wage increase over 5 years is significantly higher than 18%.

This kind of thing is unheard of in the private sector. You get one of:

a) no increase if times are tough

b) some increase based on your performance
c) some small adjustment that recognizes cost of living changes (or seniority changes if you prefer to see it that way)
The union will be getting both. And gold-plated benefits. (Please name the private sector companies that give defined benefit pensions these days). (Please name the private sector medical plans that pay for laser eye surgery). And jobs-for-life. (Speak to workers in the forestry sector, the service sector and yes, even the highly paid hi-tech workers about job security).

Bottom line is that city workers are significantly better off than almost any other workers in the public or private sectors and yet you're still moaning that you're not treated fairly. Get out of your little worlds and see what it's like in the real world where the taxes that pay your salaries are generated.

The Blackbird said...
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Anonymous said...

What riles me up is this insistence of yours that it's the city that's entirely to blame for the prolonged strike. It takes two to tango - CUPE has not exactly been a picture of reasonableness in this dispute either. The fact that the union and its supporters have used what should be a work dispute as the launch of the political campaign against Sam Sullivan in the next election is as much to blame as anything else. (And no, I don't like Sam and I would be happy if he isn't re-elected).
The city has not taken away your right to bargain collectively - it's actually bargaining with your union. The fact that you don't like its tactics is irrelevant to the fact that bargaining is taking place and has taken place for almost a year now. To claim the city's approach is Boulwareism is nonsense - the city has moved far from its initial position at the start of bargaining.
Would it be fair to the people who pay the taxes in Vancouver if the city just caved in to any demand that the union puts before it? The city is just as entitled to refuse to agree to demands it doesn't like as the union is.

I'm not saying management is perfect or hasn't screwed up here either. In fact, my position would be more like "a pox on both your houses". I'm just annoyed at this holier-than-thou, we're better than you scum out there, we're more intelligent, qualified and hard-working than non-union people attitude that radiates from you.

Actually you're not. You're about the same as everyone else. You just get paid more.

The Blackbird said...
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The Blackbird said...
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spartikus said...

I don't just persist to see you squirm, spartikus – though that's fun.

Er, who's squirming? I mean really, that's just juvenile. And as for the question I seem to be "dodging", until you showed up no one had actually asked that of me, or anyone else. Certainly not anonymous @ 9:41am. And adding to my confusion about some point you are trying to make is the fact that in your original comment you identified The Blackbird as the poser of the question.

I humbly suggest you look over the thread again and get your story straight.

A similar conclusion is reached by a discussion paper, “Government Compensation: Issues and Options”, prepared by Morley Gunderson, a professor at the University of Toronto, in July 1998

Sigh...Gunderson is featured prominently in the cite I gave you. You might want to reread that as well.

So a public-private wage differential of about 5 percent seems to be the Canadian consensus at this point.

Labeling it a "consensus" is unwarranted. As you yourself point out, your own outdated study issues serious warning flags that the data is simply not available to warrant a worthwhile conclusions.

Government workers deserve significantly better wages, benefits and job security than their counterparts in the private sector because

Well, I'll let the provincial government sum up: "We also recognize that fair compensation and benefits are integral to our ability to attract and keep employees who foster public service excellence. Different people have different needs and so we offer benefits and programs to address these needs."

But, that said, I'll certainly add to The Blackbird's fine comment: If a discrepancy exists in their particular field, private sector workers deserve to be paid the same wage as public sector workers. Wages and benefits for working people should rise, not fall. Especially in this time of great prosperity, of which labour shortages are now a fact of life in Vancouver. Indeed, one of the main stories on the news tonight was the changes to the Foreign Worker Program to make it easier to import workers. As one industry leader put it, the labour shortage "is the worst he has ever seen it."

Despite the great wealth in this city and country, the lower/middle classes are increasingly undervalued and under compensated, especially compared to the explosion in income enjoyed by the very wealthy. The gap between the rich and poor in Canada is not quite as extreme as in the United States (now at it's widest since the period before the Great Depression), but it is eroding.

Finally, pointing out that someone is making facts up is not, sadly, an ad hominem attack.

spartikus said...

Workers get an annual increase over and above the increase negotiated in the contract

This utterly false. Some Vancouver workers, but not all, have graduated "steps"...where they work their way up to their full wage. In other words, they do not achieve their full wage for 5 years! Calling this a "raise" is outrageous. Calling this a raise above the 17.5% over 5 years figure doubly so.

The collective agreement is the public domain, and on the web. It has been linked to on this thread. Show us. Put up or shut up.

Get out of your little worlds and see what it's like in the real world where the taxes that pay your salaries are generated.

We do live in the real world, thanks, but once again I am struck by your open contempt for working people.

Say, what if I told you that 8% of the City of Vancouver's workforce, the non-unionized managers, swallow up 30% of it's payroll? What if I told you Judy Rogers salary alone accounts for 1%?

The Blackbird said...
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