Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Star's 9 Anti-CUPE Strike Commandments

No wonder the strike is going on so long when the City's major newspaper writes the drivel it did in its Editorial on Saturday thereby helping to promote disunity amongst Windsorites.

What a ridiculous piece. It must have been done this way to provoke outrage amongst its readers so that they would go to the online Star forum and comment.

Really, who can take the Star seriously as a member of the Fourth Estate:
  • "[British politician Edmund] Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all."

I am still a subscriber but I keep wondering whether I should remain one and keep on paying out subscription fees. After all, I can read it online for free. Adn there is Google News. Force of habit I guess. After my involvement with STOPDRTP, I learned what the Star was like first-hand. I was not impressed.

I should not complain too much. But for the Star refusing to publish several times a Guest Column of mine, I would not have started Blogging!
  • “We acknowledge that in these matters, our positions usually come from a business perspective.”
Oh and forget to mention that the Star is unionized too so perhaps that may bias its approach a little bit. One has to be careful to make any pro-union remarks because the Star unionists might throw the arguments made back in its face during the next contract negotiations.

Here is a list of the Star's nine anti-CUPE points and my thoughts relating to each one.

1. The right thing to do is to send the dispute to binding arbitration:

Sure the parties ought to negotiate their solution. But when one party has failed to negotiate properly---just read Councillor Postma’s BLOG or reneges on a "stairwell" deal---then what choice is there.

It's hard to continue to be out on strike though when your employer uses your money as a taxpayer to fight you.

2. Arbitration is neutral:

Gee, the City was prepared to offer Eddie-style mediation about Greenlink because he could not agree on a solution with the Province. Why isn’t something similar acceptable when it is a CUPE issue?

I don’t know how a Labour Act arbitration is carried but in “private” arbitrations the parties choose the arbitrator and set out the terms of reference. Just like with Eddie’s mediation.

The City always loses in arbitrations----perhaps it is because the City’s position is always a bad one in each case and they went to arbitration since it was “worth a try.”

If the City's position is so good now, then why not go and have the arbitrator shove it down CUPE's throat. Isn't that Eddie's style anyway--have someone else do the unpleasantness.

The reality is simple:
  • 2,4,6,8
    Eddie's afraid to arbitrate!

3. CUPE is taking a stand on behalf of future workers on the subject of retiree benefits:

That's usually what happens in strikes. It is not only current issues that are of concern.

  • “What is the stake of the strikers in retiree benefits for future hires…It seems unreasonable that current employees should take such a strong position when they are the only ones without a real stake in the issue.”

A rather selfish and one-sided position to take. But it is a Company perspective after all, one from a newspaper in a chain that is in serious financial trouble itself.

In effect, it tells new hires that they have to negotiate everything for themselves when they are hired. Who could ever bargain on their behalf because they are never there during current negotiations? Absurd!

The same logic applies with every benefit that existing employees have. Get rid of them all and let the new hire negotiate for them. It is not a 2-tier system but a multi-tier system for which every new hire has to negotiate.

I think this is called union-busting.

4. The contract should be settled on CUPE terms because the increased wages will help our economy:

Huh….who ever said that? That is a straw man that the Star has created.

Perhaps I could accept the thinking behind the statement except I know that the money saved would be squandered by City Hall. Canals anyone?

5. City management has received raises:

Accurate but narrow. They have learned well from Eddie. “The best information we have is that this is simply not true in any relevant time frame.”

And what is the relevant time frame. It's the time period “since our economy crashed.” When is that? It is whenever the Star chooses it so that it does not have to refer to management increases back in May, 2008.

That is a very narrow time period isn’t it.

Just take a look at this page on the Star’s website to see what I mean. Go to Municipalities and City of Windsor. Check out the percentage increases and those who have joined the $100,000 club.

Hush now, do not talk about how the Mayor and Councillors increase their salaries through Directors fees. The more meetings they have, such as at Enwin where I thought they had fixed all the problems years ago, the more they make. They just got a new increase because of the new Airport Board too.

The Mayor and Councillors are all right Jack! Are they giving up their right to PRBs? How about those that have them now or their relatives?

6. Strikers are only interested in their own welfare:

And the Mayor only has an interest in investors one can argue just as foolishly. Throw this language in his face after the CAW membership rejected the first Casino agreement that their executive made:
  • “Mayor Eddie Francis says the decision of Casino Windsor workers Friday to turn down a tentative contract agreement could kill hopes for its future expansion and puts other city investment in jeopardy.

    "Today is a dark day for Windsor," Francis said.

    The mayor said city leaders have been fighting to convince senior government and casino operators to invest in the expansion of Casino Windsor on vacant property west of the gaming centre.

    "We've been working hard trying to make a case," he said. "The key issue decision-makers are facing is whether to make an investment in Casino Windsor or elsewhere.

    "The strike continuing will have an impact on the families involved, but also on long-term investment here. I can't be any more direct than that. There is a lot at stake here.

    "A continuation of the strike makes the decision easy (for investors to look elsewhere). They need to get back and work on the issues. We don't have the benefit of time."

Not a word about the workers' issues. Investors were the only concern. Yes, yes, I understood the financial aspects of the turn-down and the impact on the City (it has not made that much of an impact in the end has it). It was the coldness of it all has always troubled me.

  • "People in real starvation conditions don't have the options available to the strikers -- of course."

And isn't that why CAW made concessions? The issue really is that banks and auto companies get billions while workers get the shaft.

7. The city is prolonging the strike

Ask Councillor Caroline Postma. Or is there another Councillor as well to whom Eddie referred and insulted who was part of the problem of prolonging the strike?

8. Windsor Star editorial opinions are too close to the mayor's opinions:

  • "All Windsor Star editorial opinions are developed and finalized through the Publisher's Office, not the Mayor's Office"

Oh my, are people comparing the Star and City Hall with Pravda and the Politburo. Oooo the Star is so touchy.

Accurate but narrow again. No one has suggested that the Mayor's Office develops the Star's opinions. But people are concerned
  • the Star has never told its readers about a number of relationships it has such as the one between its Editorial Page Editor and the Mayor's Chief of Staff that could give rise to suspicions as described (except in a Face-to-Face interview which disclosed even more startling information. Why is the Star hiding this or are they too embarrassed to disclose it so many years after it happened?)

  • Star reporters who are critical of City Hall seem to get new jobs and some had their BLOGs are deleted

  • leaks to the Star only, of all the media, turn into stories supportive of the Mayor's position before the public or even Council are aware of details.
It is not really the editorials that people are concerned about. Who reads them anyway or takes them seriously? Rather it is the way in which news is presented that is the concern. After all, some of us remember that the Star is on a mission don't we:
  • "We did things that newspapers can do to bring about change, positive change. I think we got a lot of results this year and this now validates the results we got.”

9. The strike is hurting the city:

I really doubt it. We are known as pro-labour so it is hardly a big surprise. Wait until CUPE strikers are forced back to work in Toronto as the garbage piles up there. Windsor will be forgotten.

I believe that Eddie has contributed a good deal to the negative image that this City has earned while he has been Mayor. His fights with the Senior Levels and the Bridge Company are classics.

As an aside. Expect Detroit newspaper-type changes to take place at the Star soon. I doubt whether it makes sense for the Star to continue to publish 6 days a week in this bad economy. The Monday Star has been a joke given its few pages. Why else would the Star say this but to train people to go to its website:
  • "These points represent a fairly clear position on some very sensitive issues. Next week, we will invite you to comment in an open online forum to criticize or develop any of these positions."
The CUPE workers should not take the bait. Ignore the Star twaddle. There is nothing that CUPE can do other than capitulate or say that will change the Star's position. Why bother with them. That is NOT how the strike can be won.

I should thank the Star though. Without their stories and Editorials, who would need BLOGs!