Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mindless? Lockstep? Not Bloody Likely.

I enjoy reading comment threads in other forums. Flamers refer to all union members as "mindless," "walking in lockstep" or my personal favourite "parasites of taxpayers."

Colorful. Entertaining. Ill informed. Dumb.

Strikes are frustrating for everyone but serve a purpose. When negotiating a contract you need leverage to garner the best deal. Many believe that the City, as an employer, acted in good faith.

Unfortunately, the take it or leave it approach to bargaining only generated strike votes of 94 - 96% approval. Unheard of levels of support. Historically most strike mandates fall within the 65 - 80% approval rate.

Why were staff so motivated to support strike action? Beyond Sam Sullivan's comments it was the attempt to claw back benefits that they hypocritically promoted in their application to Canada's Top 100 Employers (2007 Edition).

People were striking to keep their benefits and as noted before over contract length. CTV, Tuesday Sept. 25, reported that it will take 2 years for staff to recoup the money lost in this strike. What the media can't comprehend, or won't admit, is that 39 months ends 90 days after the Olympics. There is no benefit for the employees to bargain at that time. Olympics, on average, generate debt.

Thankfully reporters and talk show host don't negotiate contracts for others.

Insanity, as defined by Benjamen Franklin, best defines the City's negotiating style.
Do the same thing over and over hoping for a different result.
After 11 months of one way time limited ultimatums and 8 weeks of strike action the City management team finally realized that bargaining actually requires two parties exchanging proposals. It started, in true Vancouver style, over coffee. Finally in week 9 mediators were brought in.

Anyone who has read this blog over time will know I am no fan of CUPE's:
  • No Layoffs due to Contracting Out;
  • Auxiliary Seniority (CUPE 15); or
  • it's 2010 Olympic language;
but, one way, take or leave it ultimatums have one result only - prolonged strikes.

Once the Port Moody template of 39 months and 9.75% was replaced by the 18.76% compounded over 5 years (Surrey, Richmond, North Vancouver, Delta, White Rock) why did the City not apply for non-binding mediation ( or as they call it "enhanced mediation") then?

This nearly 11 week marathon would probably have been over in weeks 3 or 4.

5 comments:

The Blackbird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

One of the reasons why people have low opinions of the public sector unions is that union members always blame the other side 100% for anything that goes wrong.
Take this posting. It's 100% the city's fault for not bargaining in good faith, for not agreeing to mediation earlier etc. Maybe CUPE should take some of the blame. Maybe it takes two to tango. Maybe the city negotiators sat with stop watches at the bargaining table while CUPE negotiators weren't there as well.

No reasonable person is going to believe that the union is 100% pure and good and only interested in the welfare of their fellow human, and anyone who opposes them is evil and should be banished from the earth.

A bit of humility from union workers would earn a lot more support than the condescension that emanates most of the time.

I'm just a worker myself. I pay taxes in Vancouver. I don't get anything like the working conditions you get. I can see that the richer your contract, the higher my taxes will be, the more likely my job will move out of the city, and the more likely I'll get fewer services.

I'm sorry that you've lost 2 months of pay. I've 2 months of inconvenience because all the services my taxes pay for haven't been available. I know that pales into insignificance compared to your losses. But I can't help thinking that if the union hadn't been so bloody-minded and politically motivated to get the current NPA council, this strike wouldn't have gone on so long.

Anonymous said...

"Why did the city not apply for non-binding mediation then?"
TO SAVE MONEY!
Oh yes, and pad all the engineers'(bonuses)and managements'(OT) wallets.

spartikus said...

One of the reasons why people have low opinions of the public sector unions

One of the reasons I take issue with a great many anti-union comments here is the tendency, as above, to make up facts.

59 per cent of Canadians believe unions are an important entity in society. 72 per cent feel unions effectively improve worker salaries and working conditions. And yes it's true that this poll also shows that 48% believe unions have too much influence, but that is exponentially far from the claim our anonymous commenter makes here.

No reasonable person is going to believe that the union is 100% pure and good and only interested in the welfare of their fellow human, and anyone who opposes them is evil and should be banished from the earth.

No reasonable person would believe The Blackbird made that argument. They talked about a specific issue which was quite a bit more sophisticated than the strawman you've constructed.

The Blackbird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.