Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, May 04, 2009

Is The CUPE Strike Solution Hiding Under Our Noses

QUESTION--The big strike issue is post-retirement benefits for new hires. How many new hires were there in 2008 for CUPE Local 543? (See answer below)

Wow, CUPE is being hammered. The Star continues with its vicious attacks on them with another on Saturday.

By the way, I noticed another City ad in the Star too on Saturday although it was not one of the "garbage" ones. How many is that now that have been run? With these unexpected ads along with Greenlink ads that had been run in the past, the Star's ad department must be smiling.

You know it is bad for CUPE when Henderson praises Ken Sr.’s “guts and integrity, not to mention impressive survival instincts.” Oh I guess Gord was away when Lewenza had his “no concessions” moment but all is forgotten in order to attack the CUPE carpetbaggers.

I have to admit I think that CUPE has done a poor job of letting the public know what its position is and they have made a number of PR blunders that will not help their cause. Their May 1 ad told me nothing other than they had some kind of a "creative solution to contain the cost of retiree benefits. " I wish they had told Windsorites what it was so my garbage can be picked up soon!

I almost felt that I had to congratulate the Mayor in how he has handled this matter. “Almost" but no cigar.

I read this in Gord’s column and it immediately made me suspicious. It’s too bad that he did not give us a hint who his informant was. I doubted that it was the provincial government insider who used language similar to this about the border deal that never was. Accordingly, it had to be someone from the City who knew what was going on or who was prepared to cause mischief amongst people who have bags of garbage smelling up their neighbourhood:
  • “The sad thing about this CUPE strike is that it didn't have to happen. I'm told negotiations came tantalizing close to a made-in-Windsor settlement, mindful of the city's dreadful circumstances, before Patrick Cyril Ryan, CUPE Ontario president, stuck his nose in. And then used his militant proboscis to draw a line in the sand.”
Wasn't the last guy with a Made-In-Windsor solution ex-Mayor Mike Hurst re the border and you know what happened to that idea! It ultimately lead to him not running again for Mayor.

The Sheriff strikes a blow again against Eddie even in semi-retirement! Well done too. Few would have understood the context of that remark.

The big stumbling block seems to be granting post-65 benefits to new hires. I started to do a bit of digging around. I knew that Eddie had to be concerned about the City’s huge liability for post-retirement liabilities. Standard & Poor’s commented that:

  • “The city's outlook remains stable. But the bond raters warned the city will have to deal with a growing burden posed by rising post-retirement benefits that have left it with a future liability of $170 million. "Windsor's large post-retirement liabilities ... are among the highest compared with its peers," the report said. "

If that was not cleared up, then the City’s bond rating could fall. If it fell, then Eddie’s financing ability would be hurt badly. As I Blogged before about the East End arena financing:

  • “You remember that I was concerned about whether the way the City was going to do its financings met the requirements of the Municipal Act. Under Regulation 276, to do the borrowing the City wants to do, it must have a minimum of an “AA-“ rating from Standard and Poor's!”

So it may be necessary from the Mayor’s perspective to hammer CUPE to show S&P that he is doing something to keep investors happy. And we know how important investment is to our Mayor.

Hmmmm, maybe it is not so clearcut after all. Maybe the strike has nothing whatsoever to do with negotiating a union contract with CUPE. Rather it all has to do with keeping S&P onside.

I am no fan of Sid Ryan after some of his comments but I had met him once and he seemed to be a bright guy. I could not believe that he would want to keep his members on strike and drain his strike fund either. I am not so sure either that what would be settled in Windsor would be a precedent elsewhere that he could use to beat up on other municipalities. But then again, what do I know about union tactics. Could he really be the stumbling block?

I had another thought. Could it be the other way around? Is Eddie being the front for other municipalities? You know an AMO alliance to beat up CUPE? Who knows.

However, something seemed strange when I went through some City Minutes.

I had thought that the idea of the City website setting out the City’s position was a smart idea in their offensive against CUPE. That tactic certainly helped the University in its struggle with the professors. To be honest, I thought it was a no-brainer but clearly I was wrong. I read this in the Minutes: Council had voted the idea down. So then how was a website created? Then I saw this a few days later.
Fascinating, another quick reconsideration just like what was attempted with the canal deal which failed. This one was successful. I wondered if all of these surprise reconsiderations were annoying Councillors and that helped kill Eddie's canal dream.

I was shocked as well that the Mayor voted again too. He rarely does that. There was no reason for him to vote since the Motion would have carried without his vote. Was it symbolic of his desire to be seen to be so involved? Obviously so. He could point to it when the S&P fellows came knocking again.

I wondered who wanted it reconsidered. Was this another case of the Mayor refusing to take NO for an answer, again just like with the canal? I wondered if Administration had put together a sample website and done all kinds of work even though Council had said not to move forward with it a few days before. Sort of like the Mayor having Cooke and his colleagues come in from Toronto to dazzle the Councillors on the canal. Who gave them the orders to do so?

I was interested also that it was not even on the Agenda for that meeting since it was the 9th item. I bet some people might have been caught by surprise!

However, it was the April 24 meeting that caught my attention. The title said "revised."

What the heck was "revised?" I heard that Councillors wanted all of the votes recorded and not just the ones that passed. Interesting. Perhaps that was why the Canal vote that Eddie lost was not recorded in the in camera Minutes as I Blogged the other day.

Then I saw it. Here is what was defeated. Take a look:

If this had passed and the Union had been agreeable, the strike could have been over 10 days ago! It looked like someone figured out a way for new hires to pre-fund their benefits. Who could argue with that!

What is most interesting is what the Mayor did. He did NOT have to vote. It would have been a 5-5 tie and under the Procedural By-law, the Motion would have been defeated anyway. However Eddie voted to break the tie and that absolutely defeated the Motion.

I do not get it. What's the issue? Why was there an objection to setting up a sub-committee that could have worked the issue? Note that it was only on the 27th that the City decided to rebate back any savings to residents after

  • "accusations by CUPE Ontario president Sid Ryan that the city was using the strike to save dollars and balance the 2009 budget."

I wonder if that decision would have been made if Mr. Ryan had not stuck his nose into the matter.

Who nose what is really going on now. After the incident with Eddie hiding information from Council and citizens, my nose is out of joint at this. I do not like the smell of rotting garbage or something being rotten in Windsor either.

Can we not see farther than the end of our noses in this City? Does everything have to be such drama? Do we always need to fight, nose-to-nose?

Isn't the answer right in front of our noses, it is so obvious? The parties in my opinion need to keep their noses to the grindstone and build on the Motion that was defeated. It looked like a way out. None of us need to be dragged around by the nose any longer by hidden agendas. The last thing we need are people to get punched in the nose!

Who is playing whom in this strike? It certainly now is not clear cut to me. It is a good thing that I started nosing around.

I guess the question in the end is, in Gord's terms: whose "militant proboscis" is bigger. Eddie's or Sid's? Perhaps Council needs to do the measuring!

ANSWER-- In 2008 there were only 4 new Local 543 members hired.