OC Transpo Union Chief - World's Worst Communicator

Some of you may have thought it was Stéphane Dion, but as OC Transpo workers start a strike that will impact thousands of members of the public, the award must go to Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 President André Cornellier.

When you are a public sector union, public opinion is very important. I saw the union president interviewed on CTV and he came across as very arrogant and not caring about the public. I do not believe that he is, is but that is the impression he presented. And he failed to present the union's case very well, mainly because the facts he was trying to present got lost in his attitude.

And the union itself has not presented any information supporting their position on their website, not even a single press release.

So let me try to do what the union and it's president have failed to do so the public can see that the hard working OC Transpo workers do have a reason to strike.

The Ottawa Citizen reported the facts this way.

The union has been without a contract since March, and the two sides have held talks off and on over the months. Things heated up last week when the workers voted 98 per cent to reject a city offer and to give their leadership a strike mandate.

The main unresolved issues are wages, scheduling, sick leave and contracting out work.

The city is offering a three-year deal with three-, two- and two-per-cent wage increases in each year, retroactive to April 1st and a one-time $2,000 signing bonus to each member.

The union is proposing a three-year contract with increases of 3.5 per cent in each year and has said they will not accept smaller wage increases than other city unions have received recently, which are minimum three per cent per year.

The city is proposing to take some scheduling control away from workers in order to run operations more efficiently, while saying it will respect booking seniority rights. The union wants to maintain the current scheduling practices.

The city is looking to relax language about contracting out work, which prevents non-unionised workers from performing some duties, too.
So the first thing we note is that the union has given the bargaining process a long time to work before deciding it was necessary to go on strike to get the City and OC Transpo to pay attention to their concerns.

While this may not be a good time for the union to ask for new benefits, their major reason for striking is management's attempt to take away previously won contract provisions regarding scheduling and contracting out. If there is one thing that workers will strike for it is to protect hard earned rights and contract provisions, and attempts to replace their jobs with non-unionised contract employees. Such attempts are almost always certain to lead to strike action. According to the union, such attempts made in the past have always been withdrawn.

The one area that the union is asking for increased benefits is sick leave, where they are asking for the same sick leave provisions as other city workers. As well, in regards to wage increases, they are asking for the same increases given to other city employees.

These do not seem like extravagant demands being made by some of the hardest working city employees with very demanding and stressful working conditions.

So why has OC Transpo forced them to strike. One thing to note is that everyday OC Transpo operates it costs the city money. Everyday they are on strike the city saves money. An OC Transpo strike is an effective way for the city to save money while deflecting the blame for the inconvenience onto the OC Transpo workers and their union.

Is this a strategy dreamed up by Mayor Larry O'Brien or just the result of his arrogance and continued inability to lead the city.


James. said...

I was chatting with 2 colleagues this morning. Both came to that same conclusion. He talked on CBC radio at the high listening time last night. Mostly b*tching. It took 10 minutes for him to start addressing which issues they wanted resolved by the strike ("we want respect", he said). WTF!?

The union is so greedy. Most of us don't get 7% raise, and if they hate their jobs so much, then quit. So many immigrants who have the required education level would take those jobs for HALF the salary and be all too happy to do so.

Anonymous said...

Subverting the system from within - What a joke.
You are part of the system. You life within the system. The system "feeds" you.

Your pro-union tone is interesting...
I suggest that is is possible the union was not patiently dealing with the city. i suggest they were waiting to "Strike" when it would hurt the most people.

As for your "...he came across as very arrogant and not caring about the public. I do not believe that he is ..."
Believe it.!!!!
I was held up 45 minutes by his Strikers. They backed up traffic, made people wait in their cars while they blocked traffic into parking lots. I waited 45 minutes. When I "spoke" with these people. They were arrogant and uncaring about the people they blocked.

They told me they were exercising their rights!!!.
Wow they have the right to take away the rights of others...
I hope they are out a long time
I hope they suffer like they make other suffer.
People in Canada do not know how good they have it!!!

Norma Ray said...

I am laughing sardonically at how vicious people are getting over this, and it's only Day One.

Maybe the people like James who don't like it when people exercise their legal right to strike should move to China.

Norma Ray said...

p.s. Happy International Human Rights Day, all!

James said...

If you don't like your job conditions, then quit! The people have a right to public transportation. 100k working people trump the "supposed rights" of the 2300 whining babies a.k.a. bus drivers. If you have a problem with democracy, you should move to china!

Anonymous said...

Bravo, James.

You have succinctly described the situation and the "right to strike" has its limitations - despite teh attitudes of others who think it is an inalienable right. That is BS at the highest level.

Anonymous said...

1st of all, Larry O'Brien belongs in jail, for letting this strike and a thousand other things screw up... -and not as Mayor.
The Bus's (Like our Postal Service,...) are ESSENTIAL PUBLIC SERVICE(s), if "they" don't like it ? FIRE every single one of them, starting with the Union leader, bring in our Armed forces(with a nice bonus pay) in the Interim and start from scratch -but do it right this time.
Do you have any idea just how many Canadians would do their "driving" jobs for 1/2 of what those greedy mongers want !!!?
I do, and I would gladly try out.

The Bus Ryder

Rachel said...

Norma Ray, I'm all for human rights, but they're impeding on the rights of others. There are people who are missing work because of this. It's not fair that those of us who can't afford cars have to pay for this.

Anonymous said...

Our fine citizens of this city are hearing the information in a twisted fashion. And have been from the very start. The city has the money ( our money) to run ads and radio spots. I am not a bus driver but was back in the early 80's. I am still working for OC Transpo in another department and am just finishing up the last years of my career. Im in year 28 with about 5 more to go. I'm a member of ATU 279. Hence, I'm out on strike. The complexities of working at OC Transpo cannot be explained as simply as people wish it to be. It's an extensive and very diverse group of people out on strike....not just Bus Drivers. A lot of these people are trades-people, skilled labourers, specialized troubleshooters and on and on. We hold many licenses and training that is very specific to our occupations. Forget the replacement workers. It isn't reality. The image that certain people like to cast about OC Transpo workers being ignorant louts is not true in all cases. There are some uneducated bus drivers for sure. There are some very educated bus drivers and well decorated ( 29 years without a traffic incident ? when driving 55,000 city miles per year and carrying about 110,000 passengers annually ( those are old numbers from the 80's) One thing for certain they have thick hides from many years of abuse. By the management and sometimes the public can be a very uniformed , careless customer. It all takes it toll. We all know the job. And we all knew what we were getting into...that's not the point. You know your job...and I dont ....well same situation in reverse. I dont expect the public to understand my job and I dont approach it that way. To try to paint this group with one brush is human nature...but is not anywhere near the truth. There are many educated and experienced common sense people working there. There would have to be...we have many transit awards for safety and efficiency ( you dont hear anything about that now do you ?)The managers of OC Transpo come and go...mayors come and go...negotiatiors come and go...union leaders have remained fairly consistent in my experience. Over the years we have tended to cycle the same people ( with some exceptions) on board our executive. Wiley veterans. You may not like Andre Cornellier, but dont under-estimate him either. He is very very experienced. Yes . he isn't a good spokeperson...( he has already said that) He is also a man who feels very emotional about his members. So to balance that out we got Randy " the clinician" Graham to come on down. When Randy Graham ( ATU interantional Vice President) and once upon a time Ottawa bus driver came from Toronto to wade into the negotiations 2 weeks in and couldnt settle it...it sent a very dire message to the members of 279. If Randy Graham couldn't settle what was at the heart of the strike...then there really was something seriously wrong. Like I said I've been with OC 28 years and I've seen Randy Graham settle every single strike...fairly, and with duty and honor to both sides. I truly believe that the current head of OC Transpo is very inexperienced at settling labour disputes. In fact he seems to be inflaming it. The mayor I am never voting for again. He doesn't seem to have the capacity or experience to deal with unions...and doesn't want to make a move , as he is using ATU 279 as a precedent setting model for the 12 or 13 unions to come. Thats all well and good but there are a lot of people waiting for the city to start getting serious. Im not being fecitious when I say ...he picked on the wrong union to get his white belt with. Next topic in this essay is. Drivers DONT make their schedules. Drviers pick from what is put on the board from OC Transpo's scheduling people....in order of seniority. It is all pieces of work. OC Transpo has never cared less about how hard it was on their drivers ( to piece these pieces of work together) and I cant imagine that Alain Mercier is suddenly the new saviour. They will report in the paper that they are doing this for safety and all manner of explanations when the employees know that the high managers of OC Transpo only care about one thing. Looking good. And it has been 28 years on my behalf of making many a saviour look good. That may sound cynical and it is. After 28 years you tend to have seen it all ...or most of it. You do get a bit crass. It''s not about drivers schedules. Its about seniority and messing with the system we all toiled through without complaint. The quiet group of OC employees that get it done. The ones you dont hear on the radio or see pictures of in the news. There's 2,300 of us. Not just the evil people you see on the ten second news blip. When we voted no on the forced vote ( unprecedented...a forced vote because O'brien knows Baird, who knows Ambrose) We all knew the 2500 or insert number here signing bonus was bogus and sure enough it came true today. Seniority is all we have at OC Transpo and this contract is playing with people's seniority. That is the essence of why it will never be settled the way it is being presented now. I ask the citizens of Ottawa to look at both sides of something rather than just taking some journalists word for it. That being said we are innately creatures of our environment....so when you are hearing this misinformation constantly all day long...you begin to think it is the actual truth. As a 28 year veteran of OC Transpo...I apologize for this. I dont really feel it is personally on me but if it makes you feel good...you can blame me. It's much easier that way I guess...than to seek the real truth which is shrouded by very slippery political people. I say congratualtions to Clive Doucet....he actually had it right. Alex Cullen too. There's a gag order on down at city hall....so dont' let the same dog bite you twice. Lastly the City doesn't mention how much it is going to cost to fire up all those buses again. Last strike in the mid ninties...I remember the cover up on that. It cost something astonomical. Those machines are used to running 22 hours a day. Wow. In the several million dollar range plus. Not to mention, service disruptions once we get back online...with buses failing left right and center. Press the right people for the solutions. We are trying to find a solution but city hall seems to be a very confused bunch or else they ( like today) try to present this front like they are all on the same page...but what are they actually saying to all of us ? I ask the public to not let these politicions and talk show hosts pit the citizenry against the front line workers. Like most of you reading this...we take it on the chin every day, For the talk show hosts and people who assert to threaten harm to OC Transpo workers..or our workplaces that public have access to, I would really discourage that. It's again , placing your anger and frustration on the shoulders of the wrong people for the most part. I thank you reading this long entry and thank you for your patience in this ridiculously long strike. If you started to press the councillors and didnt let the media get away with bogus assertions...then more pressure would begin to fall on the real people at the heart of the problems. The managers of OC Transpo and the Mayor of the City...and that awful negotiating team and strategy. We are to blame as employees in that it is easy to blame us...so if that is what makes you feel like you're asserting yourself properly , then my heart goes out to you. It's time to focus very strongly on the proper players in this. The media and the mayor have been enjoying toying with the truth. And as long as you stand behind them...I don't see this coming to an end. I'm not being negative..just trying to be pragmatic and open.