Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Firefighters Arbitration: Smoke And Little Fire

No wonder Councillor Lewenza looked so happy at Council. He could not have said much with Edgar in the Chair. He would have been cut off so that the public would have been none the wiser.

Windsor was offered a clear choice in how to undertake labour negotiations in these troubled times:
  • 1) A Made in Windsor solution negotiated in a manner to try and reach an acceptable resolution in the best interest of taxpayers, the Unions and the City, or
  • 2) A hardline, tough approach that results in a 3-year arbitration and a 101-day strike in which few of the City’s objectives are reached but at a cost that is higher than #1 to the disadvantage of everyone.

Oh, and I should probably add in this: Not one word of this was written in the Star to inform the public as is the Star approach to labour matters where Edgar's career is at stake.

Mind you, I may be unfair to the Star this time. It may be that the reason for the Star being so silent is that its reporter, Doug Schmidt, seemed to have little idea as to what was going on at Council from his BLOG comment:
  • "Coun. Ken Lewenza Jr., without Eddie there to reign him in on his tangential wanderings, was allowed to verbally meander off on something he kept calling Made-In-Windsor contract negotiations unlike, I guess, the Made-In-Elsewhere stuff Helga and her city hall gang are committed to)."

It was hardliners vs. softliners night at Council with each trying to set out their approach. Was that so hard to understand? Hardly tangential either but fundamental to the next round of bargaining. Junior set up Administration with every question he asked and then summed it up at the end beautifully, mocking them.

So now we also know what a Council meeting looks like if run by Vanilla Man, Councillor Bill Marra, as Mayor rather than the combative Mayor Edgar (aka Eddie) Francis.

Interesting, what a difference in tone: no tension, no cutting off of Councillors who were speaking on the microphone, freedom to ask questions and to get them answered even if embarrassing to Administration. What a difference a trip to London, England makes. Edgar should never have allowed a Council meeting when he was not around.

Edgar was made to look foolish and incompetent as a our Voice of Council in labour matters. At least to people watching on Cogeco

Actually, it did not matter. Edgar could travel more at taxpayer expense and need not worry much. As I said above, the Star carried on its tradition of not telling the public anything that Councillor Lewenza disclosed at the session that again demonstrated that the Mayor and hardliners have no idea how to undertake labour negotiations.

Why make the Mayor look bad in the only matter he has got going to get him re-elected? Why tell the truth to the public when the Star can pretend it never happened and the Unions do nothing to tell the public otherwise!

The Firefighters Arbitration---3 years in the making at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars I am sure in staff time, outside legal fees and arbitrators’ costs—achieved little that the City wanted. It took so long that this extravaganza became an “interim” decision with more to come. The result as the City knew in advance, since it budgeted for it over the 3 years, followed the pattern bargaining of matching police increases.

How Councillor Marra could say what he did in the Star was shocking to me and a disappointment. He looked foolish when he said:

  • "Windsor ratepayers took a “big hit” in an arbitrator’s interim award that granted more than $7.3 million in retroactive pay to city firefighters, but some of the toughest stuff remains to be negotiated, says Coun. Bill Marra.

    “When you look at the environment we’re in today, it’s a situation that isn’t manageable for a municipality like Windsor,” Marra said of the more than three per cent in annual pay hikes awarded the city’s firefighters for the period Jan. 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2009 — a non-compounded increase totalling 12.64 per cent."

Instead of playing to the uninformed masses, he had the perfect chance to slam the Francis negotiating technique, or rather the lack of one. He had the perfect opportunity to reveal to the public his approach to problem solving and to provide an alternative solution. He blew it!

Why have an arbitration then? Nothing was achieved if the result was predictable in advance by those who wasted 3 years of effort.

Marra said again foolishly:

  • "We’re not surprised but certainly disappointed,” said Marra."

DUH...Marra knew there was going to be a hit--he was not surprised-- so why make ridiculous comments that destroy his credibility. His disappointment ought to be that he did not pay attention to his Wardmate on labour matters.

The hardliner strategy failed miserably. Again. And Bill became part of the problem!

In Toronto, David Miller was chased out of town by the media. In Windsor, the Star covers up for Edgar as he spends more time overseas at a time when Councillor Gignac whines that we are so desperate to save money.

Where was the big mouth, political coward at Council? The big anti-Union man, Councillor Brister. Hiding behind Councillor Gignac? Not a peep out of him, no support given to his colleague when the camera lights were on since he knew if he dared say anything, Councillor Lewenza would destroy him politically. Edgar was not there to protect him either. Nope, he can just run to the Star Columnists where they can protect him from himself.

What a whiny Councillor Ms Gignac is. Write a letter to mommy and daddy for protection against the big, bully arbitrators: AMO and the Province. Demand that they tell arbitrators to protect us. Sure, pass off responsibility to others instead of learning how to negotiate. Act tough, suffer the consequences and then bleat like a lost sheep. She will be as successful in her Resolution and letters as she was in getting the Province and Premier to listen to Windsor on the border road.

Why did she open her mouth to put her foot in it? Councillor Lewenza frankly treated her with contempt by laughing at her Motion. I know, I know, it is sometimes hard to have good manners but Junior better try no matter how silly she sounds.

Poor Councillor Gignac. Doesn’t she understand that AMO and the Province have absolutely no jurisdiction over an arbitrator. Yes, write to the Management Lobbyist for Municipalities and tell them to force arbitrators to toe the Management line. Unbelievable.

It is clear that she has no concept whatsoever of labour negotiations. She as a hardliner thinks that she can impose her will on the City unions and on arbitrators who have to decide issues on the facts. Doesn't she grasp the concept: arbitrators only get involved when the City has failed in its dealings with its employees. Deal honestly unlike the actions with CUPE and there is no need for arbitration.

I guess she still does not understand what happened during the CUPE strike because she cannot yet see that Edgar had a political agenda at play.

Here is the big difference between the hardliners represented by Councillor Gignac last night and the softliners represented by Councillor Lewnza. The hardliners take the “tough” approach, our way or strike or arbitrations where a third party can make a decision that can cost taxpayers. The softliners want a Made in Windsor solution negotaiated by the parties that takes into account other settlements but adapts it to Windsor’s needs to meet the objectives of taxpayers, the City and the unions.

What a remarkable difference last night showed. Edgar would have never allowed his weakness and dirty linen of failure to show. We learned in the Arbitration who allowed the farm to be sold.

No one on the hardliner side could explain why the Library, WUC, Enwin and Transit Windsor could all settle without labour unrest within a similar framework but a 3 year arbitration was needed for Fire and a 101 day strike was needed for CUPE.

Can you spell P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S. Failed politics on Edgar’s part at that. He must accept the blame.

Doesn't anyone find it fascinating that in two of the matters that were resolved amicably within the City framework--WUC and Transit Windsor--Councillor Lewenza played an important role in the settlement, not the Mayor. It speaks volumes.

Here is the stupidity of Edgar’s firefighter approach. The City wasted 3 years and hundrds of thousands of dollars in a war yet knew virtually to the dollar what an arbitrator would allow. In a $7.3M award, the City was out a mere $90K, or about 1.2% as the Treasurer calculated. All that money wasted to save nothing. What was the point?

It gets worses. 14 sessions were held with the firefgithers and not one single issue was resolved between the parties over 3 years, not one. Tell me that this was not a political move to try to take away PRBs from the Firefighters, then CUPE and then the Police. It failed.

All that happened is to force the stronger Unions to dig in and not trust the City for anything.

Why choose a Made in Windsor solution as advocated by Councillor Lewenza who was involved in settlements of WUC and Transit Windsor without a strike. Rather Council adopted the same approach that resulted in failure. Don't they ever learn?

Just follow Edgar blindly, the Mayor who achieved nothing that he set out for and cost the City and taxpayers money in CUPE and the firefighters arbitration. It just boggles my mind.

Oh I am sorry, as long as the Star continues to hide the truth, most residents will think the hardliners won. I get it now.

Councillor Gignac made a big deal of reading the City’s representative's comments on the arbitration board re taking into account the economic difficulties faced by Windsor. The Administration rep at Council last night said that the arbitrators did take that into account already.

Thanks to the Councillor, she absolutely demonstrated that the Mayor either deliberately did not tell us the facts about the arbitration process or was so negligent in not knowing about how it operated in fact. This BS about arbitrators giving away the farm or not taking into account economics was not true at all.


Frankly, for that alone, any responsible newspaper would run him out of town; he ought never to be allowed to place his name on a ballot again. However, the Star so far has been silent.

One small last point. The whole public discussion at Council was a fraud. You see, Councillor Marra told us that they had discussed their position previously in camera. It did not matter what was said. The hardliners had already won.

In fact the CAO scolded Council a few times for speaking out in public. Those conversations according to her should be held in private. Heavens, who wants the public to know what is going on although it was clear from the Admin. Report that the Firefighters were to be screwed in round 2 of the Arbitration.

That is how Council works in Windsor. That is how Edgar can go away and not be too worried. Too bad that they won't let us in on the secrets. Heck, we only elect them and pay for everything.