2009-01-09

Solidarity Forever: It Is Time For OC Transpo to Negotiate in Good Faith

In the late 1990s working conditions and morale at OC Transpo were such that it was described as a poisoned workplace, which culminated in the tragedy of the Ottawa Massacre.

Both union and management knew that something had to be done and that the usual confrontational approach to labour-management relations was not working. They sent their negotiators to Harvard University for training and embarked on what is called interest-based bargaining.

That process resulted in the current scheduling system, a proposal that originated with the management negotiators. The union agreed to take a 2 % lower pay increase to pay OC Transpo's added costs due to the system.

As a result of this new approach to labour management relations, working conditions, employee morale, and customer service improved and there was a steady increase in ridership levels over the years.

Then Larry O'Brien was elected Mayor of Ottawa.

It is no surprise that Larry O'Brien does not have a clue when it comes to labour-management relations. What is a surprise is that OC Transpo's top management seems to be eager to join in Larry's union busting strategy. What is not a surprise is that his attempt, bordering on bargaining in bad faith, to go over the heads of the workers elected bargaining committee and appeal directly to the workers has been overwhelmingly rejected by the union membership.

And now, apparently, the city is considering embarking on an all out labour war by using scabs to drive OC Transpo buses.

Do they really think CUPE is going to sit idly by while the city goes after one union at a time. I would not expect to see one snowplough on the road, or any other unionized City of Ottawa worker on the job, the moment after the first scab sets foot in an OC Transpo bus. Larry and his cohorts underestimated the workers solidarity once. Let us hope they do not do it again and cause even more havoc for the residents of Ottawa.

The weather is nice down south. It is time to send Larry O'Brien and senior OC Transpo managers on a vacation and bring in some professional negotiators who are willing to bargain in good faith to go back to the table with the union.

The workers have been on strike for over a month. They are anxious to negotiate a fair agreement. All that is required to settle this dispute is for OC Transpo to bargain in good faith. A little of the co-operative spirit of the 1999 negotiations might help too.

4 comments:

Cliff said...

Take a look at the comments on some of the Ottawa Citizen propaganda pieces... sorry news stories about the strike. The drooling hatred of Citizen readers will curl your hair as they call for anything up to and including forcng transit workers back to work at gun point.

Some of the hatred the right wing press is trying to stir up against unions lately is going to boil over into violence - which will then be turned around and blamed on the union of course.

Anonymous said...

It is funny how, in Canada, the "right wing press" is always the media source that doesn't agree with you.

I used to ride the bus to work - used to get on and find my place with the rest of the "public". Now I scramble to find a way around.

I guess the thing I am most irritated about is the protrayal by many/most union members in blogs on how awful their work is because of the "public".

I too work with the public and testy customers are always a pain but it goes with the job.

As a member of the public, what I won't likely remember, after the strike, will be the news stories on how this is an epic battle between workers rights and the city's agenda. What I'll most likely never forget is how much the various bus drivers who blog hate me and how much of a chore it is to deal with me and how awful the public is in general to them.

I guess, as a customer of their services, I'm not going to be as likely to smile on my way into the bus as I may have at one time. I'll just look at the driver and think - is this yet another driver that loathes me as is so evident by so many of their posts.

Jennifer Jilks said...

I think it is time that unions reinvent themselves. We have rights, negotiated fair wages, but in the current economic climate to allow those with high seniority numbers to make 6-digit salaries on overtime irks my as a taxpayer.

I believe that seniority counts for first bids, but those with seniority are milking the system, and abusing sick leave. It happens in all unions, to a certain extent, but in this situation it is intolerable.

There are many part-timers who would benefit form more hours, and they need to spread the wealth and put lower-paid wage-earners into full-time work.

I am a strong union member but in the new millennium we need to make collective agreements that make sense.

Anonymous said...

A Union usualy represent all workers. In this case it represent 20% of seniors drivers who are living like KINGS. This union also left hundred of thousands of people strangled in search of altenative transportation. We could call it selfishness.

See here how much money some of the drivers make. http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/english/publications/salarydisclosure/2007/munic07.html

They have better working condition than school bus drivers and nurses but yet, they want more, MORE, AND WAY MORE.

Hey Drivers! If you all get what you want, is that going to make you smile more, friendlier and do a better job such as being on time once in a while?

Thank you that is such a relief.