Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sucker Punch

Talks break down followed by a flurry or press releases, posturing and finger pointing. I'm glad that talks are going to mediation. Brian Foley will work with CUPE 15 and 1004 while Debbie Cameron focus on CUPE 391 (Library Workers).

But as Judy Rogers pointed out it is non-binding.

CUPE is attempting to play both sides of the mediation fence. For the past three weeks it has publicly stated it is willing to negotiate, bargain or mediate. Yet, as Jerry Dubrovolny correctly pointed out, there was no actual follow through by CUPE to initiate mediation. Each side can request a mediator and the City acted first. CUPE, through Keith Graham, can not then complain that the City has the advantage in setting the mandate. The same option was open to them.

The City continues to emphasize the amount of settlement offers it made to avert this two month shut down of civic services. What the City consistently fails to mention is that their offers were time limited and repeatedly referred to as "firm, final offers."

Ultimatums result in the equal and opposite response - Defiance.

It's human nature and the City's management team has demonstrated a surprising lack of understanding on this front.

The original offer, 39 months, would have expired in March 2010. 90 days after the Olympics conclude. Negotiations can begin up to 6 months prior to the expiry of a Collective Agreement or October 2009. Honestly, can you believe that the City would have entered into any serious discussions in the midst of the run up to the Olympics?

4 years was not acceptable to the politicians. They correctly believed that labour negotiations would become the election issue. CUPE claimed that it would never be an issue but then at the last CUPE rally union presidents leaders announced that they will work to unseat NPA councillors and the Mayor.

5 years became the next logical step but it only became acceptable to the City negotiators when settlements across the Lower Mainland set this as the contract template.

The City also consistently fails to mention that not only was the contract set to expire at the end of the Olympics but that there were benefit claw backs in the medical, dental and employee savings plan. I have stated before that I am very happy with the current benefit plan and can not in good conscience expect more.

CUPE 15 leadership is locked into "No Lay Offs Due to Contracting Out" and is opposed to the City posting jobs both internally and externally. CUPE 1004 wants to penalize the City for bad faith bargianing by asking for 1% more in its settlement.

Between the arrogance of City Managers (firm, final offer) and 19th century industrial trade unionist mindset of CUPE negotiators I just shake my head and come to the cold realization that the City doesn't give a damn about it's employees and CUPE does not know how to represent knowledge based workers.

Challenge either side and be prepared to be vilified.

Its a cold hard sucker punch. Saturday I stayed in bed all day wondering "what the hell - why even care anymore?" I'm still asking that question.

It's the start of week 9. Strike pay arrives on Friday. It covers the bills, so 20 hours/week of picket duty continues.

I'm working on the resume this week and job hunting next week.


Sick of it! said...

Picket Boy... I feel your pain. This strike has gone long past the point of making sense. I hear about more and more COV staff (union as well as management) who have thrown up their hands and moved on to new jobs. I think the loss of skilled employees and damage to "office relations" caused by this strike is more severe than most people realize. Like you, I'll be touching up the old resume this week.

Anonymous said...

Can I say that I thank you for this blog, not just a vent for you but I've often found myself quoting and informing those on the line from this blog, often correcting misconceptions and bringing up good points from commentators and yourself, and seeing both sides - this has kept me going far beyond the media and the mental leap required of some to yell "get back to work" from a car full of idiots, so no matter what the outcome, what you offered here is more than appreciated. In my opinion, anyway, so thanks!

Picket Boy said...

The loss of good will between staff and management will stifle all the extra committee work which has involved staff.

Neighbourhood Integrated Service Teams - staff will limit their involvement to the 10% of staff time they were initially told it would require. 10% is a gross underestimation by management.

Project Civil City - that will be an oxymoron inside City Hall

How long it will take to return to a semblance of civility internally - who knows?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

What confuses me is that CUPE seemed to be aware that the City was trying to force it into a long strike, and yet could hardly contain itself from rushing into a strike position. Vancouver wanted a long strike to save money for the future wage increases and CUPE has obliged them with this obstinance over contracting out and seniority; issues that affect a very small number of its membership. Union leadership always claim that strikes are about protecting workers, but this strike seems more like just plain hatred and payback for past strike battles between the executives of both sides.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:59 pm makes a good point. Jobs for life and seniority of skills for job are concepts that are far more important to CUPE’s interests then the vast majority of city workers.

Good people are very hard to find these days; and even more so with the type of knowledge required to work in the municipal environment. Many city jobs do require a level of skill that no longer exists in the ranks of the unemployed.

CUPE leaders need to wake up and smell the coffee.

Anonymous said...

Ha, strange to find myself defending CUPE, but there's something that you're missing here, and CUPE leadership is probably aware of. It's almost certain that within the next 5 years the housing bubble is going to burst, and that will have a significant impact on the city's finances and the job market. If you look at the job stats, most of the new job creation in the province in the last few years has been in construction. Pretty much all the rest of the economy has been feeding off that.

So, it's quite likely that in 3,4 years from now, city worker jobs-for-life, and no allowing scum in from outside, will be a very attractive feature...

like-minded said...

Thanks, Picket Boy for your astute comments. I like that you always weigh both sides. I feel much like you did this weekend. I do try to remember that people have it for worse off than me, but it's been one week of frustration after another. I had the chance to speak to a local 15 negotiator and voiced my opinions about the issues they are holding out for (no layoffs due to contracting out is their priority). The negotiator was there to sell the union party line, and some union enthusiasts were right in there with their "fight-to-the-death" attitude. I told them that I and everyone and everyone I work with daily, were not in agreement, and that CUPE was not at all representing my needs. They are locked in an old-school union mentality, and people like me and my co-workers are, as you say, part of the "knowledge-based" workforce at the city. We find it preposterous that anyone would demand no-layoffs in this day and age, and even more galling that we have been forced to go without pay for more than 2 months to fight this battle.(Besides, it's a well-known joke that the City can't even get rid of people who have abused the system for decades, much less easily lay-off entire departments). For the first time since joining the city's work force, I am also thinking about getting a new job, one that won't make a pawn in the City/union battles that happen every few years.

spartikus said...

Each side can request a mediator and the City acted first.

It should be pointed out that mediation going on today is not the same sort of mediation that was requested by the City on Friday. Today we are engaged in mutually agreed to mediation with mediators accepted by both sides.

On Friday, the City requested the Province appoint a special mediator in regards to 1004/15 and a "facilitator" for 391 (something which the Minister actually cannot do under the statute. A facilitator is something that can only be mutually agreed to). Over the weekend, the Minister rejected the City's position and declined to appoint that special mediator.

Given this Dubrovolny is, once again, playing fast and loose with the facts. CUPE clearly initiated the process of mediation weeks ago with its offer of voluntary mediation, up to and including binding arbitration - and just as clearly the City rejected that offer.

We are now in a mediation process that was on the table weeks ago, and to state the City initiated this is, quite frankly, ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

2:02 pm, that was an outstanding post. The silent majority has spoken.

Anonymous said...

"Sucker Punch" when you look at it my local 1004 union position is I will be losing about $ 5,000.00 dollars in wages because of this strike. Cant wait to see what monies and benefits I gain in doing so . . .
(Moderated Comment)

Anonymous said...

It's sad to see that the city employees with get-up-and-go and getting up and going. I think that suits CUPE down to the ground - get rid of all the independent thinkers and people who are capable of keeping their jobs and advancing their careers on their own merits. The more deadwood there is, the more powerful CUPE and its leadership is.

the new guy said...

I have to say that I agree with most of what I've read here, both in Picket Boy's posts and in some of the comments ("like minded" at 2:02 p.m.). I'm equally frustrated with both sides and feel that the outstanding issues are not enough to stay on the line for. As a friend of mine used to say - "it's not the hill to die on". I agree that the union went into this too quickly and the arrogance shown by City Hall is disturbing. Clearly there is a poisoned atmosphere between the two parties and the outdated attitudes and mind sets on both sides don't help. We need to find a new way to deal with issues in the workplace without resorting to strikes which no one wins in the end.
I've never been part of a union before and as a professional, I certainly don't feel that they represent me or my interests. I'm seriously questioning whether or not to stay with the job when this ends.
I'm glad to see a mediator involved and hope we see an end to this soon.

Anonymous said...

Never thought I’d respond to a blog comment, but your blog is extremely well written and I feel the need for a bit of balance in comments to date.

I am not a union expert, but my family roots are strongly union connected. When I hear management now makes up 30% of our work force and auxiliary workers another 40% that now leaves only 30% who receive all the benefits our union has worked so hard to achieve over the years.

In speaking with auxiliary workers it seems to me most really don’t give a dam about anything the union is working toward for them – they have never had security, benefits or job bidding rights, and a lot seem to prefer the flexibility that offers them. As for management, whatever the union settles for, management will get that and more without being on the line.

So that leaves 30% of the workers who are most impacted by the City’s union busting tactics. Given the fact that building service workers, parking revenue collectors and likely ice rink staff will be privatized, what percent will that leave of regular full time workers?? And how much strength will our union have then.

I think the City will have accomplished its goal of busting the union. And for those “knowledge-based workers” who want to move into the 21st century, they obviously have no need of, and do not see, the benefits the union has brought them over the years. If you feel so strongly about how little the union is doing for “you” (and it is all about you right?) and don’t want to be in a union, then get a job in the private sector!! Or better yet, why not start up your own business.

I’m one of the old-school employees who will retire within the next few years. The outcome of this round of contract negotiations will have little impact on me; however, it is not about me, it is about those who still have the majority of their working years before them. I am sad to see the way a lot of people view unions these days – but life is like that right? Comments from like minded and others simply stoke the fires management has started.

Sadly, I do see the sun fast approaching the horizon, and while the rays are still warm, it is only a matter of time before the chill of night will be upon us ……..

In Solidarity

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the reason so many of the city workers are not unionized is because the union has become too selfish and keeps too many of the benefits for itself. So there's not much left over for everyone else.

It's true that unions long ago fought to improve basic working conditions. But that was long ago. A lot has happened in the meantime, and it's a fair measure of the conceit of the union worker that the contribution of everyone else is completely ignored.

Here's a thought for you - many people who don't belong to unions are also decent, caring human beings who try to do what's right, and not screw their fellows. I know it's hard to believe, but, really, it's true. And even more amazing, people who work in non-union companies have decent wages, reasonable benefits and cordial working conditions. The world hasn't come to an end for them. Incredible!

Anonymous said...

I think the real issue is the failure of CUPE leadership to adapt to the modern day world. We are in an era where we are promoting skills like never before, and yet CUPE is stuck in that dirty 30’s rut of seniority over all skills at all costs.

It’s the same as jobs for life. We are now in an era where people are increasingly changing occupations like never before. The days of spending your entire life working one job are over. And yet CUPE is once again stuck in a rut insisting on this.

CUPE should get off these dinosaur era issues and instead focus on the basics; increased wages and benefits. As these objectives were met many weeks ago CUPE should get off their hi-horses and provide a free vote to the workers and see if they are happy sitting ion the picket line defending irrelevant issues such as jobs for life and seniority over skills.

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