City of Toronto Union Accrued Benefits During Strike – New Mayoral Election System Coming

by Mike Holman

Please note that this post is very Toronto-centric, very rant-like and also contains a fair bit of fantasy.  Your challenge will be to determine what is truth and what is  fiction.

I read in the Star today that apparently one of the negotiated items in the City of Toronto outside workers strike (aka “The Garbage Strike”) was for the union members to continue to accrue benefits such as sick leave and vacation days during the time they were on strike.  This is unbelievable – they were on strike – why would the city give them credit for anything?  And why stop there?  Why doesn’t the city just pay the workers for their time on the picket line (minus union pay of course).  And it wouldn’t have to be at their old pay, if the city had any heart at all then the “strike wages” would be paid at the new negotiated higher rate.

Kevin Sack who is the city spokesman (fun job) had this to say about it:

City spokesman Kevin Sack said yesterday that granting vacation and sick pay credits for time spent on strike is “standard practice” in back-to-work agreements.

Wow, thanks Kevin for that inside look at the City of Toronto’s bargaining strategy.  Was this issue even talked about or was it just assumed?

Let me just paraphrase Kevin ever so slightly and try to show what I think really happened:

City spokesman Kevin Sack said yesterday that “We got our asses handed to us and by the end of it all, we didn’t know which way was up. David and I were so busy trying to keep up with the union orders demands, that we didn’t know what we were agreeing to”.  “They made us wear women’s lingerie to the meetings, wash their cars before and after each meeting and they kept giving us ‘time outs’ in the corner if we disagreed with anything they said.  It was horrible”  he sobbed.

Another back to work item was the amnesty for various law-breaking union members in exchange for the union not punishing the small percentage of members who crossed the picket lines.  I could write a whole post in this issue but I’ll try to summarize my thoughts concisely (for the first time ever):

Amnesty for law-breaking strikers – As Mark Ferguson – head of local 416 put it:

“The City wanted to terminate and prosecute those few who got a little excited on the picket lines. We made sure of amnesty for everybody involved. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!” he said.

I’m just glad that Mark made those comments at the end of the strike and not the beginning otherwise we might have seen 6 weeks of murder and mayhem in Hogtown as 30,000 members run wild through the streets knowing that amnesty would be on the the way.

Union promises not to punish scabs” – Another quote from Ferguson:

In exchange for City-sanctioned amnesty, the union made what Mr. Ferguson called “the difficult decision” not to punish what the union calls “scabs” — unionized workers who crossed picket lines during the strike.

So the union *promises* not to retaliate against the scabs?  I really hope that Miller insisted on the “cross my heart and hope to die” promise otherwise this will be the first part of the agreement that gets tossed out the window.  I mean really…is the city going to monitor this somehow?  Very naive agreement from the city.

What about David Miller as mayor?

I have to admit that I like David Miller, he’s smart guy, well-spoken, obviously competent at a lot of things and he seems to be doing a reasonable job of running the city.  He has a lot of good qualities except for quite possibly the one thing that the city really needs in a mayor – the ability to negotiate.  Miller has always been known as a “friend of the unions” which doesn’t bode well considering he’s on the other side of the table now but I just think that like myself, he’s just a bad negotiator.  Miller would have sold Manhattan Island for a better price than the natives plus he would have added some benefits as well.  For this reason I think that he would be better of in the private sector where he can use his skills and lying spin ability to forge a good career. In an ideal world it would be great if he could hired to lead the 416 union but that is unlikely to happen (to put it mildly).

I’ve written before about how the big 3 car companies got smoked by the unions every single time their contracts came up and I think part of the problem stems from the fact that a car company CEO gets hired for a lot of talents – negotiating ability is only one talent which may or may not be present in a candidate.  Union leadership on the other hand only requires one talent – the ability to negotiate.  I think that companies and governments in unionized environments should add negotiation skills to their CEO talent searches in order to compete with the unions.

Mike and Mr. Cheap will help decide the next mayor of Toronto

Yes, that’s right – I haven’t told Mr. Cheap yet (shhhh) but I’ve decided that after the silliness of the last little while, the political landscape needs to change in Toronto.  With that in mind here are the changes which will take place.

No more voting for the Mayor – it will be appointment

While Miller was a reasonable choice for mayor, the fact that Lastman got elected clearly indicates that the voters of Toronto have no idea what they doing and won’t be allowed to vote anymore.  Voting for Lastman because of those Bad Boy commercials was stupid and I’m sorry I did it.

Mr. Cheap and I will decide the candidates

The 2 candidates to be considered for Mayor will be selected by myself and Mr. Cheap with one selection each.

Toronto city council will decide who the mayor will be from our 2 candidates

The reason that Mr. Cheap and I won’t make the final decision on the mayor is because we really don’t know the city operations and politics very well.  Plus we really don’t care that much.  Having watched some of the scenes from city hall on the news last week it’s clear to me that city council is not the tight-knit political SWAT team that I had imagined it to be but they have a good (I hope) grasp of the inner workings of the city so they can have the final choice.

So without further adieu…here is my choice for the next election

Mark Ferguson for Mayor!

Yes, Ferguson – the “stays in Vegas” guy I quoted earlier.  Clearly this guy can negotiate and that is the #1 skill that I am looking for in a candidate considering the large budget shortfalls Toronto will be facing.  As he said to his union “We didn’t give up shi*”.  While this omitted the fact that the union did the time-honoured negotiating tactic of selling out each and every future member, he was right.  If this was a hockey game the score would have been 10-1 for the union.

Won’t he have a problem negotiating against his old union?  Not this guy – Ferguson is a negotiator first and union member second.  When Gretzky faced the Oilers in the playoffs in 1989 as a King, did he let up in any way because the Oilers were his old team?  I don’t think so.

What do you think?  Who should Mr. Cheap pick as his candidate?  Who would you pick and why?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mr. Cheap

For my selection I choose myself! As part of my platform I promise to give up my entire salary (bribes are where the real money is, so I’ll do the job just for the grafts… and of course, to help the good people of Toronto).

I also promise that any union that goes on strike won’t be back to work until they agree to a WORSE deal than they had before the strike. I’ll also hold out to make all union leaders do the worm (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lchOa6fIbHI) before I’ll sign their new, worse deal. Even if the city is suffering through the strike, I won’t relent (I have a high tolerance for the suffering of others ;-).

2 mfd

I’d love to know what legal road blocks there are for removing a union and going private. I hear its a pain in the butt.

3 Four Pillars

Mr. Cheap – Ok forget about my selection process…you’re in!! :)

MFD – I have no idea about legal roadblocks, but even without them, getting rid of a union has to be tough. Reagan fired the air traffic controllers in the 80’s but I imagine there might have been a few bumps (and crashes) along the way.

Congrats on the wedding!

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