Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mayor Francis Must Go (Part I)

It should hardly come as a surprise to you, dear reader, how I feel.

The Lewenza Report is a damning indictment of our Mayor and his conduct during this Community-divisive, 101-day CUPE strike. It is the kind of stuff that investigative journalism should have uncovered long ago, as was done in Toronto after their CUPE strike. Except we have the Windsor Star, the Messenger, as our main media outlet! The Star did not even have the decency to report on the Ward 4 session in its Wednesday edition.
  • "Is this the beginning of the end for Miller?

    Mayor David Miller is a weakened politician today, vulnerable to challengers following a strike deal that suggests he caved in to the unions.

    Would-be mayors spoiling for a run at his job in November 2010 are no doubt emboldened as details of the deal emerge. They now have an issue on which to launch a run for mayor. They'll be able to spin an election message of "Throw out the sellout..."

    Did we go through a five-week strike for that? Could Miller not have accomplished the same without a strike? Why the bluster and chaos and disruption when meeting the unions more than halfway could have settled the dispute months ago?

    So, five weeks later, and counting, Torontonians find that they endured a lost summer for a deal arguably available without a strike.

    To add insult to injury, Miller now insists on selling spoiled goods. "We've eliminated the sick bank," he said, 12 TV cameras rolling and frustrated reporters rolling their eyes yesterday. Torontonians should be "extremely pleased," he said. And no doubt, at least the 30,000 strikers are – even if they are miffed at walking the picket line for five weeks to maintain the status quo...

    Maybe, Miller will find that this municipal strike unmasked much about his personality and leadership that Torontonians reject. And maybe, come November 2010, he may find that while his tenure as mayor did not end in the summer of 2009, the Miller phase-out had begun."

  • "Why that 39-day strike happened to us
    The city admits it was ready to make concessions on pay and sick bank months ago. So why didn't it?

    ...The frustration was warranted. Three weeks after the end of the bitter strike, key players involved say it should never have happened.

    The mayor is questioning his own strategy, and Ann Dembinski, president of one of the two striking unions, is furious about the sick plan compromise that made the contract settlement possible.

    They reveal a deal blocked for months by venomous labour relations, entrenched positions and miscalculations. The outcome suggests there will not be labour peace any time soon.

    "They've sent labour relations back decades," says Dembinski, president of the city's inside workers in CUPE local 79. "It was the nastiest round of bargaining I've ever been in – by far..."

    But he failed at his preferred objective, the one his negotiators clung to during seven months of bargaining: an immediate end to the sick bank. Instead, it will be phased out.

    In hindsight, Miller says the city could have been more flexible on both wages and the sick bank.

    "Could we have given our bargainers flexibility beforehand? Maybe. Those are things we could have done differently.

    "If I had to do it over would I try to do that? Well, given what I know now, yes, possibly," Miller says.."

    Why was Toronto different? Why did daycares have to close and mounds of garbage rot in city parks for the city to reach a deal other municipalities obtained without a walkout?

    It is all the more baffling because a phase-out plan, according to Miller, was part of the mandate council's employee labour relations committee gave negotiators as far back as last September. Yet he says they never proposed it in bargaining, waiting instead until sometime after July 15 – at least 24 days into the strike – for mediators to raise the option. etc. etc. etc."
These could be Windsor stories not just Toronto's. Except we never read anything like that here except on BLOGs. So co-incidental!

I hope you had the time to look for yourself at the materials from the Report that I posted.

After reading the materials and hearing the explanations given by both Councillors at the Ward 4 meeting, my reaction to Edgar (aka Eddie) is like that of Cromwell to the "Rump Parliament" in 1653
  • "You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing lately ... Depart, I say; and let us be done with you. In the name of God, go!"
There is the political way out to make it easier. Mayor Francis needs to remember the excuse now so he can follow the same route as David Miller in Toronto. After all he has a new baby:
  • "Toronto Mayor David Miller announced at City Hall Friday morning that he will not seek a third term, saying he wants to spend more time by his family and has helped the city become "safe, strong, clean and green."

    Accompanied by his wife and children, he arrived at a press conference to applause and said:

    "I'm announcing this morning that I will not be seeking a third time as mayor of Toronto in next year's municipal election."

But of course, he will not go. He will shrug it off or dismiss it or call it frivolous or mere politicing. He will let the sycophants fight the battle for him because he has more important things to do like build mind's eye canals or transportation hubs at the airport.

Actually, Edgar does not have to do anything. The Star did not cover the Ward 4 session so Lewenza's meeting was a non-event. It may as well never happened because to almost 200,000 Windsorites, other than those who attended, it never did. The Emperor still wears a beautiful suit of clothes! Media schools would have a field-day with the Star's actions.

I was stunned by what I heard at the Lewenza meeting!

Here is the irony of over 100 pages of letters and slides of the Lewenza Report. The citizen tax hawks who demand lower taxes need to focus on new targets. Councillor Lewenza demonstrated conclusively that Windsorites' best friends during the CUPE strike were the so-called union-types on Council. Their proposed solutions which were never approved time after time were lower in cost than the final settlement. The Councillor hardliners headed by the Mayor in fact have cost us millions! There was no need for that result whatsoever.

Councillor Lewenza just proved that Councillor Postma's BLOG was right.

  • "Last week we made the decision to allow our team more freedom to negotiate a contract that is fair to both parties and we also agreed that binding arbitration is not the right path for us. I strongly believe that for the past 7 weeks council has not given our negotiating team the tools to truly negotiate. We have set parameters for them but have not given them the autonomy required to get a contract. In essence they have been negotiating with themselves."

No wonder she has not dared to "communicate" on her BLOG with her residents for months.

Several times Lewenza stated that the negotiating committee's hands were tied. Councillor Marra said that the whole mess was the worst politicing he had seen in 15 years of Municipal service. He should know. The first Edgar Back-To-Work Protocol screwed him royally and could have cost him his job!

They both stated that Council micromanaged the file for weeks not letting their negotiating team do anything significant until mid-June, almost 2 months after the strike started, when Helga finally had the guts to put the boots to them as you shall see later. Marra said he would never be involved in such a negotiation like this again.

What is the consequence of this? Windsorites could well face now a $30M claim for back wages from its CUPE workers for the bad faith shown by the City! Except, to be blunt, I do not think that some of the CUPE leadership have the balls to move forward on this aggressively for their membership. Why not?

If CUPE members sit back and let their leadership do nothing, then shame on them. They will have been been doubly crushed but only themselves to blame for the second event! I am not even sure from what I heard last night if the Local leadership is even aware whether something that was supposed to have been filed in the OLRB complaint before has been filed yet!

It is tragic for me to watch this happening to people who have been abused and lost thousands of dollars in wages. However, it is their fight.

Imagine this for Windsorites if CUPE wins. A 101-day strike and being forced to pay back wages too. This consequence of the hardliner actions would be really rubbing taxpayers' faces in it!

Much of what Councillor Lewenza revealed was something I suspected but now it is proven. The big shocker to me is how much this all cost taxpayers in the end when it was absolutely not necessary.

Why did we need a 101-day strike?

Think about it. WUC settled before the CUPE strike without a strike. Enwin and Transit Windsor settled after, again without strikes. All settled around the same numbers too.

If the WUC numbers were so bad, why was it settled? If the CUPE settlement was so bad, then why were the other two City organizations settled without a fight?


It tells you something about Edgar (aka Eddie) Francis. He is a terrific planner. There is no doubt that this struggle was planned for years since the CUPE collapse was to be the precursor for going after the Firefighters (no contract for 3 years and now in arbitration) and then the police:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis says services will still be delivered in the event of a strike as city managers were preparing "perhaps one of the most comprehensive plans this corporation has ever seen in terms of contingency planning."

He is so smart, in his own mind anyway, that the way he plans matters is the way that the Universe is supposed to unfold. Until it does not. Then Eddie has no idea what to do. How can he? He did not contemplate it and so could not plan for it.

Eddie I am certain expected a short strike since it was directed at the City staff who were the lowest paid, many of whom were single parents. When the strike lasted 15 weeks, what did we get from our Mayor with a clear lack of good sense....panic and a near riot! When he got out of the negotiating picture in the last week, Helga was able to arrive at a settlement with CUPE quickly.

No wonder that Toronto settled at almost the same time!

There is so much to talk about in Junior's Report. Let me deal with key issues.

For that though, you will have to wait for Part (II)