Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, July 06, 2009

It Is Time For CUPE To Surrender

I am sure that the CUPE workers who have sacrificed for so long will be upset and disappointed at what I am going to say. But there is a harsh reality which they need to consider. Other readers may be surprised as well.

I always suspected that there was more going on behind the scenes than PRBs in the CUPE strike. But it was more than I ever could have known. Now it is coming out slowly in dribs and drabs and from the most unlikely of places. From outside of Canada.

It was a shocking revelation to me. I did not understand it fully until now, until I read the Times of London article about how big this has become. And Canada is the world's mentor it seems.

Unbelievable, read on and see if you agree or not.

Unionized workers in all unions across Canada owe CUPE Windsor a huge debt of gratitude. Unfortunately, "thanks" do not pay off the mortgage or buy groceries or allow the niceties of life that a regular pay-check brings.

Unless workers across Canada, and perhaps elsewhere as you shall see subsequently, collect money for CUPE Windsor members to give them the equivalent of their salaries as they fight for union members everywhere, then CUPE should take what it can get and the workers should go back to work now!

Why become the martyr for a cause they cannot win on their own? No one will really thank them unless they are prepared to put their money where their mouth is! Does anyone expect that to happen? Don't be silly.

Frankly Sid Ryan was partially right and that is why he has been demonized so much. His viewpoint has to be crushed. He made it easy for himself to be dismissed with his comments earlier for which he was criticized. Ad hominem attacks is a much better tactic to use than reason and logic.

Here is part of what CUPE Windsor is up against. They are fighting City Hall who is using their tax money to beat them into submission:
  • "Strike savings mount

    But don't expect much of a refund, councillor says

    Windsor's labour cost savings for not having to pay 1,800 striking municipal workers since mid-April have reached approximately $24 million.

    Mayor Eddie Francis has promised that the city will reimburse ratepayers any net savings from the strike, now in its 12th week. But councillors are cautioning residents not to expect much of a refund. "The city has incurred significant costs --probably much more than what people expect," said Coun. Ken Lewenza Jr. "When people see the level of return, they will be insulted based on the inconvenience they have endured."

That is the $24 million pot so far to buy security guards, hire replacement workers, to run negative ads in the media and overtime expenses. How can any union compete with that? And to add to the bottomless flow of dollars and to add insult to injury:

  • "Meanwhile, Windsorites have started receiving their 2009 final property tax bills, which were mailed on Monday."

But so what, that is the reality in any strike where a union goes against a large company. Ahhh, but there is more.

Remember when it was suggested that Windsor was being used by CUPE for the strike in Toronto. I suggested that another possibility was just as plausible. I argued that perhaps AMO was using Windsor to fight the Cities' wars with their local CUPE unions. Who knows what is being discussed at the meetings of the FCM Big City Mayors. Perhaps I was right. Take a look at these articles from the Toronto Star:

  • "What's clear is cash-strapped municipalities are gunning to get rid of it [Toronto's strike issue of banked sick days] says Roy Male, past president of Ontario Municipal Human Resources Association, which advises municipalities on collective bargaining.

    Some municipalities have placed contract talks on hold and are awaiting the outcome of strikes in Toronto and Windsor, where the city's bid to cut retirement health benefits for new hires has resulted in an 11-week-old garbage strike.

    "If they can get away with stripping these concessions in Toronto and Windsor we know we'll be faced with it everywhere else," says Ontario CUPE president Sid Ryan, citing Brampton and Waterloo as places where talks are on hold...

    Mayor David Miller puts the future cost to the city to pay for banked sick days at $260 million. But that estimate includes the bill for non-striking firefighters and non-unionized managers. To pay for striking employees of CUPE locals 79 and 416, the liability is $140 million, according to the city's estimate."

That amount is close to Windsor's $290M figure, something that again demonstrates how badly this City has been mismanaged in a City so much smaller than Toronto! Don't forget the massive increase since Eddie has been Mayor. The equivalent of the WUC fiasco.

I did not know about OMHRA before. Their mandate is:

  • "In 1963, a few eager HR colleagues met to determine the need for sharing information and the exchange of ideas on a regular basis. This group of nine met at the Walper Hotel in Kitchener and out of that discussion came the beginning of the Ontario Municipal Personnel Association as it was then known.

    Today, O.M.H.R.A. represents over 280 members and in excess of 176 organizations including municipalities, local public sector boards, and commissions, and continues to share information and exchange ideas on a regular basis."

How about this from the richest Municipality in the Province. Now you know there is a war on by cities to capitalize on the economic slowdown opportunity:

  • "Mississauga seeks wage rollback

    City unions have mixed reaction to mayor's request to accept lower salary increase than contract allows

    The City of Mississauga has asked unionized employees to roll back a 3 per cent annual wage increase guaranteed in their contracts, city manager Janice Baker says.

    "We simply met with the unions and said, `In light of the economic downturn, would you consider deferring some of that economic increase,'" she said yesterday.

    Mississauga council has also asked the Ontario government to intervene. Last week, it passed a resolution asking Premier Dalton McGuinty to freeze the wages and benefits of all public sector employees in the province for one year.

    Public sector employees should share the burden felt by taxpayers, says the resolution, passed with only one dissenting vote. Municipalities are "prevented from taking many actions due to the long-term contracts with unionized staff signed in better times," it adds."

So now the Province will be asked to freeze all public sector employees, not just municipal workers. Wait until the Editorialists start jumping on that bandwagon to shape public opinion.

No wonder the Province is not eager to legislate workers back to work and it seems will only do so if the CITIES ask for it, not the unions. And why would the Cities do so when Eddie can say:

  • "Duncan, Ontario's minister of finance and revenue, said it's clear that the city doesn't support binding arbitration, which local CUPE leaders Jean Fox and Jim Wood have been urging...

    I [Eddie] think ... it's probably the right decision given the fact that to do anything otherwise would really short-circuit the collective bargaining process," he said, adding that, if strikers were forced back to work, it would set a bad example for any future strikes. "People would ... hold out until the legislature steps in."

Sure, sure...US Government crushing UAW and Ontario and the Feds forcing the CAW to make huge concessions. Two of the strongest unions being forced to take hits in order to survive or risk bankruptcy of their employers.

Now take on the public sector unions. Canadian Governments generally do not go bankrupt like companies so it is here where the wars will really be fought. The strategy has to be first go after CUPE Windsor and make them the example. Then go after other cities like Toronto or Hazel's City, then fire, police, the teachers, provincial unions and federal. One after another. Crush them until they give up or if that does not work, legislate them.

As for the NDP...They are invisible, worrying instead about this:

  • "New Democrats urge pension plan for province

    Ontario New Democrats are calling for a new Pension Ontario Plan that would cover all working people in the province...

    Miller said the party is studying similar plans in western European countries, in some American states and in Quebec. But he would not go into detail about such things as financing the plan and how it might be administered until those studies, and all possible options, have been considered. He added, however, that the goal is to have as little impact as possible on the tax base."

What an absolute disgrace for the Party who supposedly talks for workers. Pensions are so much easier to talk about than the current crucial bread-and-butter issues.

Pshaw you say...left-wing silliness, another conspiracy theory. Normally I would have agreed with that sentiment until I read this in the Times the other day. I wonder if the NDP are in on it in Canada as Labour must be in the UK:

  • "Whitehall lines up ‘doomsday’ cutbacks

    Secret “doomsday” plans for 20% cuts in public spending are being prepared by senior civil servants, who fear politicians are failing to confront the scale of the budget black hole.

    Whitehall mandarins have begun creating detailed dossiers containing reductions in expenditure that are far deeper than the more modest savings being proposed by Labour and Conservative politicians...

    Mandarins, fearing a prolonged recession and a collapse in tax revenue, have begun planning for more severe cuts of up to 20%.

    The dossiers will be handed to cabinet ministers the day after the next general election, whichever party wins...

    Steve Bundred, chief executive of the Audit Commission, the spending watchdog, said politicans had failed to be honest about cuts and called for “severe pay restraint” for public sector workers."

So even the English have recognized a problem and are going to make public servants a target. So what you say, what's the big deal about the UK. It's not Canada.

Oh no, read on from the Times:

  • "Philip Hammond, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said the Conservatives were looking for “serious efficiency savings”, but refused to put a figure on how much would be cut from spending.

    A Tory government would be determined to safeguard basic public services, said Hammond: “I hope civil servants are not simply going to sit around the table and come with a series of options which cuts everything at the front line and leaves the mandarins’ back office alone.”

    Hammond revealed he had recently met a delegation of politicians from Canada, who were responsible for a radical 20% cut in spending imposed by the federal government in the 1990s.

    “The psychological tactics they used to get ministers to work together, looking at it as a shared problem rather than a series of departmental problems, were important,” said Hammond.

    The two architects of Canada’s programme review, Jocelyne Bourgon, who was the country’s top civil servant, and Marcel Massé, a former minister, cut 47,000 civil service jobs.

    Under the programme review, ministers and officials were required to assess all the activities of the government “to identify those that no longer served a national purpose or could be delivered more efficiently through other means”.

    Subsidies were cut, particularly for transport and agriculture, and many of the activities of government departments were scrapped, pared back or transferred to the private sector."

Can you believe it, Canada teaching the British how to reduce public servants and perhaps other countries as well.

Here is how The Honourable Jocelyne Bourgon is described:

  • "Ambassador of Canada to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)...She oversaw the Program Review exercise which contributed to eliminating the deficit, realigned the role of the Public Service, and downsized the public service by 47,000 jobs. She is also known for her contribution to the modernization of the service delivery functions."

Service delivery review hmmmmmmmmm. Aren't we in the midst of that in Windsor. Does that mean job cuts and outsourcing is next? And P3ing essential local services like water and electricity. Of course it does. The Enwin agenda item a few weeks ago at Council and the Tunnel deal were foreshadowing the inevitable.

It is going to be an all-out attack on civil servants. They have to be broken too just like the other unions. And we Canadians will be leading the world.

Politicians are really no different than the titans of industry. They screw up big-time and cost us all billions and the workers suffer. Is it right, is it wrong, you decide for yourself. Naturally, there are financial scavengers around to pick up the pieces to make a gross and obscene profit, again at a huge loss to taxpayers.

All I know is that CUPE Windsor fought the good fight even though their leaders, including their Ontario and Canadian ones made blunder after blunder. No one ever expected them to last this long.

Unless their union brothers and sisters world-wide support them with real money, then why do they need the continued losses, financially and emotionally! They cannot ever win.

As the song goes:

  • "You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,
    Know when to walk away and know when to run."

If Governments can now take over major banks world-wide and car companies even to the extent of the minute detail of honouring warranties, why public unions are a piece of cake. Forget about bargaining in good faith. It's NOT going to happen anywhere. There is another deeper agenda.

It's time to back off and fight another day. I am merely repeating what Senior has said and with which I agree:

  • "We had to make the necessary compromises to live to fight another day," he concluded.

    As difficult as it was -- Lewenza described it as "torturous" -- he knew when to fold 'em."

Of course, there is a way for CUPE to fight back and win but it will be very ugly. I do not know if CUPE members will be up to it. But if they want to know that, their leaders have my email address.