Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

CUPE Presidents' Dilemma

I am so glad that the CUPE strike did not interfere with Councillor Gignac going overseas to a garden party to meet the Queen! What a lovely time she must have had as City workers were enjoying their cuppa on the picket lines and City managers were picking up garbage.

Poor Jo-Anne. She completely misunderstood Her Majesty:
  • "she said, ‘I’ve been to Windsor. The people of Windsor were delightful.’ She was very interested in terms of what’s happening in Windsor.”

The Queen was talking about her home, the Castle in Windsor, England! Do you really think she wanted to hear about the garbage from this Windsor.

From one Windsor to another:

Ok smartie...pretend you are Jim or Jean, the CUPE Presidents. What would you do after the City's counter-offer was received?

I know that the question is academic now:

  • "The Corporation has given the Union an 'Offer of Settlement' to take to the membership - therefore there will be a ratification vote for CUPE Local 543.1 members on Thursday, July 16 at 11 a.m. at the Caboto Club in the Canada Room. Doors will open at 9 a.m. You will need to show your union card and photo i.d. There will be a second time of 4 p.m. (doors open at 2:30 p.m.) for those picketers or essential service employees to vote that are unable to attend
    the main meeting at 11 a.m.

    CUPE Local 82 members will have their ratification vote at the Caboto Club in the Caboto Hall at 11 a.m. Doors will open at 9 a.m. and you must show your union card and photo i.d."

There is still some confusion and mixed messages. On Eh-Channel, it was said that the Union would present the offer without saying whether it should be accepted or rejected. It is up to CUPE menbers to decide. It seemed clear though that Jean Fox would vote against it so it is probably not a good one at all. On the Star video, Jim Wood said he was was not too happy with the City's counter-offer and said that he would not recommend acceptance.

Let's go back a day and see if you would have done what they did.

You have just been given the City's counter-offer. You knew that there was going to be one after your "Final Offer" because NO ONE dictates to our Mayor. He must be the one who gets the last word. Otherwise he would be reacting to CUPE and that would not be good for his Toronto media image.

I wonder how much help Councillor Hatfield, who was a Union Shop Steward and held several National and International positions with his union while he was at CBC, has given the Mayor. Has he helped him strategize from a Union perspective so that Eddie can try and check-mate CUPE's every move?

You know that your members have been out for about 3 months. They are the most vulnerable workers in City Hall and are hurting financially and emotionally, especially the single women with kids. Your assistance from your Ontario and National HQs has been miniscule to say the least.

You figured out early on that PRBs were nothing more than the excuse to crush your Union so that the City could go after the police and firefighters but you had no idea that it was much more than that, a Governmental program to crush public servants world-wide.

It's tough to fight City Hall with their $24M strike fund that just keeps growing since they are saving money based on your members not being at work. And then tax bils are sent out for another taxpayer money-grab.

You know after reviewing it that the City's counter-offer is no good. It probably barely moved off what the City proposed before. It was designed to crush your members who seemingly had no choice but to capitulate after all of this time. You know---the City's tough financial position and all that---but enough money to think about building a canal and going overseas to Greece to get Games here.

With an 11-0 vote, you know you never had any real friends on Council. And you have to look over your shoulder to the CAW continuously because they are eager for your members especially after helping the non-union staff organize.

It should be obvious to everyone that the Mayor's counter-offer sucks even without knowing a single term of it. His negotiating style is now similar to that of a used-car salesman trying to pressure a customer into buying a lemon:

1) "Mayor Eddie Francis says the city wants CUPE’s leadership to put the employer’s latest contract offer to a vote by its 1,800 striking members."

An end-run around the Union leaders. If he was so confident about it being adopted by CUPE members, he would have forced a vote himself by demanding that the Labour Ministry supervise a vote. He knows though that if the CUPE members turned it down to spite him, which they would just like the taxi drivers who turned down the original deal recommended by CAW, then he would have lost his bargaining position.

Therefore he is trying to sucker CUPE leaders to take his counter-offer to the members. If it is turned down, he has lost nothing

2) Eddie wants a vote. It will be sold to the public by the sycophants as a fantastic offer and if CUPE turns it down, from a public relations perspective, they are dead!

3) "As the CUPE bargaining team was still poring the city’s latest offer at the Holiday Inn Select on Tuesday, the mayor pulled Windsor’s negotiating team out of the hotel and told reporters that, after three hours of reviewing the city’s document, the union leaders should have made up their minds.'

Pressure, pressure, pressure. Sign here on the dotted line. The City had 3 days to examine the CUPE offer line by line and to develop a counter-strategy and CUPE should decide in 3 hours or else.

4) "The question is a very simple question,” he [Francis] said"

It is the answer that is difficult!

If that was the case, why didn't Eddie give the counter-offer to Councillors before the Monday meeting. Why didn't he have the meeting with Council on the weekend? Who was called amongst the Councillors over the weekend? Why did he need so much time to strategize? Why did Council debate it for hours on end at the Council meeting if it was so easy.

5) Why didn't Eddie reveal the terms of the counter-offer to the public as he said he would but rather delayed its release?

Clearly, he did not want CUPE members to have the chance to see it in advance and to get so ballistic, as they did at their recent Friday meeting, so that they would reject it! The public also might have been upset to see how the Mayor was playing the game and perhaps prolonging the strike unnecessarily.

6) "Francis wouldn’t give a deadline when he expects to hear back from CUPE, but he told reporters there would be another news conference on Wednesday if the city was still waiting for a response."

Another pressure ploy and a bluff. He won't do it. He dare not antagonize the public if the offer is so bad. They might understand how he negotiated with the Senior Levels on the border file too to Windsor's detriment!

So those are the considerations going through your mind. What do you do? Just reject a bad offer out of hand, put it to a members' vote without a recommendation and let the workers decide, recommend rejection and let the workers decide, recommend reluctantly acceptance even if it is a bad deal since your members are hurting? I am sure that there are other choices.

What wonderful and co-incidental timing for a CUPE vote too---just after the taxi drivers finally settled their long strike. The CAW is being so helpful:

  • "Gerry Farnham, president of CAW Local 195, said the only difference about the agreement ratified on Tuesday is that it is for four years.

    Farnham said he stands behind his recommendation of the agreement, and called its terms "a victory" for the cabbies.

    CAW national president Ken Lewenza attended the union hall on Tuesday to implore the members to ratify the deal and express his support for CAW Local 195...

    But another union member, 36-year-old Dave Budnaruk, said many voted in favour of the agreement because they felt they had no other choice.

    "It's still one of the worst deals in the country, so how can I be satisfied?" he said.

Hmmm to answer my own question about what I would do. I would escalate the matter and not give the Mayor and Council a free ride any longer:

  • 1) demand that the OLRB hearing on bad faith bargaining start up again

  • 2) demand the results of the City's internal investigation into the leak and that of the Integrity Commissioner

  • 3) hire a forensic accountant to audit the City's books as the Mayor promised he would allow

  • 4) get a legal opinion about suing for back pay as part of the OLRB case or separately

  • 5) get a legal opinion about the Mayor's recent statements and whether they are actionable

  • 6) ignore the Mayor's timetable by calling his bluff

  • 7) point the finger of blame at him for trying to pressure people

  • 8) consider whether to respond to the Mayor's counter-offer. You know it would drive him nuts and he would have to present another one back.

However, when all is said and done, I would do my job and not play games or worry about my position. My job as President is to do the best I can in the best interest of my members.

If I truly believed that the offer was horrible and a sell-out, notwithstanding the member hardship, I would reject it completely and not even take it to my members. I would call the Mayor's bluff re the Ministry vote knowing he would do nothing since he could lose.

If I felt that the members should see it, then I would present it with the points for and against and make my strongest recommendation to the members about what they should do and let them decide.

Assuming it was rejected, my target would be Sandra and Dwight now for back-to-work legislation with their future political careers being at stake. After all, 1800 menbers, friends and family who are against you can be a powerful force in a small town!

To be direct, I would NOT act the way the CUPE leadership is acting. Sure I know it is easy for me to be an arm-chair quarterback when I do not have responsibility for the livelihood of 1800 families and I know that they want their membership to have a voice finally.

However, it is their job to assist their members in making a decision and not just let the workers decide with hardly enough time to think. There is NO reason for them to keep the Mayor's counter-offer secret either. Let the members think in advance about it as happened after the leak.

They are being out-manoeuvered by the Mayor again since he can still have a Ministry vote down the road.

Or are they? Has the Mayor perhaps fallen into their trap with his own brilliance being his own worst enemy? Now wouldn't that be a hoot! Only time will tell.

Now what would YOU have done?

PS. The Queen is coming to the Windsor/Detroit area. She along with President Obama and Prime Minister Ignatieff, who will form the Government after the election later in the year after another huge scandal will rock Parliament Hill, will be cutting the ribbon for the start of the Ambassador Bridge Company Enhancement Bridge Project.

After all, it is only fitting given the history of the bridge.