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Kudos to CUPE 5500

December 17, 2008 @ 08:36 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, Transit strike

CUPE 5500, the union that represents the garage supervisors, route supervisors and special constables at OC Transpo, voted 97% in favour of a strike in November, but managed to work out a contract with the City that their negotiators feel is fair.  Well done, CUPE 5500!

Larry O’Brien blogged about it, and already a few commentors are criticizing it. For example, John said:

What a great political move. Quietly settle with CUPE while the ATU dispute gets negotiated out in the open.

Not. Very. Classy.

Who aired their dirty launday, so to speak, first, John? It seems to me that the ATU 279 did. And when a public sector union goes on strike, the offer on the table should be known by the taxpayers.

Larry’s blog entry wasn’t very long, but contained the following:

This demonstrates that the unions and the City are more than capable of reaching an agreement through negotiations. It is much better to be sitting down at the table finding solutions rather than simply going to an outside party to work out important issues.

I ask again that the leadership of ATU 279 come back to the bargaining table and deal with the important issue of scheduling. We want you to be there and I hope you will come back and work with our team to make Ottawa a better city.

The president of CUPE 5500 said somewhere (I can’t find the link again at the moment) that while they didn’t get everything they wanted, he felt it was a fair deal and was recommending his members accept it. Hopefully Andre Cornellier and the other people in charge of ATU 279 are paying attention.

7 Responses to “Kudos to CUPE 5500”


  1. john says:

    And there’s the difference. Wayne Watts, the pres, clearly states that it was a fair offer. A “fair” offer was not tabled to 279. In fact, there have been FOUR “final” offers, each having the corners of the contract played with and nothing else.

    Furthermore, I have spoken with Wayne and am impressed at how effectively they have managed to do such a good job of ducking the city’s sucker punches and being able to come out on top. There has been a lot of behind the scenes crap where CUPE has been told to scab 279’s work by management and CUPE has been extremely effective in blocking the requests and intimidation. So, if anyone from CUPE is reading this, thanks for your support.

    And yes, I stand by my “not.very.classy” comment. The city has been very effective in leaking slanted, limited information, controlling the message in the press and turning the bus drivers into “el diablo”. What of the mechanics and inside/outside workers that are on strike as well. The issues that have us out pounding the pavement run much deeper than simple scheduling “improvements”.

    My real frustration with 279 is that the exec hasn’t been able to control the message, hasn’t called out the mayor and general manager on their lies and disinformation, and instead keeps coming back to get sucker punched, while cutting its own throat.

  2. gordon says:

    So, what are the real issues if not “simple scheduling improvements”? Your union boss has said one day it’s not about the money and then the next day demanded an additional 2% over three years. Sounds like it’s about the money to me.

    Were you one of the approximately 300 union members who bothered to vote on the strike mandate issue? What information did you have concerning the offer prior to voting? Did you have a copy of the full offer? If not, why not?

    From my perspective, it appears that your union president always intended to go on strike. His return to the table just before Christmas seems nothing more than a tactic designed to stall things long enough that the City wouldn’t be able to get an injunction against the picketing at Lansdowne Park on the 26th.

    What are the issues ?

  3. john says:

    Our union boss should have someone tackle him everytime he moves in the direction of a microphone and/or camera.

    The outstanding issues are, in no specific order of importance:

    -City assembling split shifts to their benefit, no more picking of morning and afternoon work as separate parcels of work. This type of assembly goes on with a very limited number of weekend shifts and they’re so s*itty, that they are the last to go. eg. Start in the morning at the garage, finish on the street (driver steps off and is replaced by another driver), run like hell to the other end of town, step onto another bus and finally finish on the street. What’s the big deal? These are the last shifts to go, someone has to hold their nose and pick them and it’s usually new hires. Once a little bit of seniority is gained, the driver has more control over where and when they start and finish. The "improved" scheduling proposal blows this up.

    -Most operators try to schedule their splits to start and finish around a 12 hour spread. The city’s offer has language in it allowing shifts that it is going to assemble to operate around a 13.5hour spread.

    -City terminating the practice of a limited number of drivers being able to work double shifts on saturdays and sundays. A senior driver would not normally work on a weekend. By allowing the double, the senior man finds it attractive to come in to work and 2 junior men get a weekend day off. Good bye to this practice. It means that only about 20% of the workforce will ever see a full weekend off. I fail to see how this benefits "junior" men as the city is trumpeting.

    -On the two issues above, the union was willing to give and take, the city’s stance is that the wholesale changes are to the benefit of the employee and the city. It’s a one way street. Assembly of days by the city coupled with elimination of the saturday special shifts AND minimum off duty times strengthens the city’s position for the future introduction of part-time workers. no thank you.

    -Union is asking for a total of 8 uncertified sick days, plus 4 family days per year, this is negotiable and we know we won’t get all of it, but we’re trying.

    -The 10+% raise is a negotiating point, the membership knows it isn’t going to get it.

    -Contracting out issues are still outstanding.

    -Pay for mechanics is still outstanding, union is trying to get their pay up to par with other transit agencies.

    -The final offer (I think we’re on the 4th "final" offer now) that management has been bombarding our inboxes with is filled with vague contractual language. This doesn’t instill confidence in the workers because even when there is strong black and white contractual language, the city constantly looks for ways to weasle out of commitments. We spend a good chunk of union dues on successful grievances and successful arbitration on a yearly basis. Again, I’m not interested in vague.

    On the topic of 300 people voting and access to the contract, I will tell you that 1400 out of 2300 employees voted. 98% of the 1400 said no. The membership was given a chance to peruse the sticking points BEFORE voting and the membership was also clearly warned that "NO" was a strike mandate, and that the executive wasn’t coming back to us to vote on anything unless the next offer was substantially better. Well, the city has been playing with the corners of the contract, but has left the crap in place.

    On the topic of striking no matter what. Think about the following….we elected a militant president, the population of Ottawa elected a right-wing boardroom bully who stated in 2007 that he’d be negotiating contracts directly. Fast forward to the end of November when the union exec was blindsided by the scheduling issue that hadn’t been on the table since late spring. Who is setting up whom?

    Ask yourself this, if the city is offering a bonus of $2500 to shut up and sign, how much are the workers about to lose forever, that which was the result of decades of bargaining. Larry isn’t bargaining, he’s union busting.

  4. john says:

    If you’re wondering why I posted, I came across your blog as I googled through info re the strike.

  5. john says:

    Sorry, one more….you obviously have heard the city’s side, slant included. Our side, slant included is at ottawatransitstrike.com. Some of the thinks I’ve mentioned are there, some are not and vice versa.

  6. Doug N says:

    Thanks for the detailed descriptions of the issues, John. I’ll be making sure these explanations get out to students and other people in Ottawa. Students from the two universities will be at Lansdowne on Thursday from noon-1 to show support. Hopefully we’ll have a good turnout!

    And Larry as “boardroom bully” – couldn’t have said it better.

    If he wasn’t driving the city into the ground right now, he’d probably be one of those CEOs driving the economy into the ground. Either way, I’m sure he’d be doing his best to make unions and workers pay for the economic crisis.

  7. gordon says:

    First, John, I have to say that I agree that your union boss shouldn’t actually be allowed to talk to the media because he only serves to hurt your union’s image.

    And I think that the tactics he’s using to “negotiate” are just about the worst that he could have chosen, short of actually pointing a gun at city hall.

    I think that the salary demands of more than 9% over three years in a city where the largest employer is offering significantly less than that are completely unrealistic and actually offensive to a huge number of taxpayers. That alone has probably lost you sympathy from the public at large. Federal employees are often expected to “tighten their belts” and accept cost of living salary increases or even salary freezes when the government is looking to save money — why isn’t this good for the bus drivers and other city employees? (Note: I am NOT suggesting the drivers or other city employees should take a 0% increase.)

    Also, I’ve seen a fair number of comments from members of the union on various websites, including mine, referring to the current economic situation in the city. They bemoan the fact that we’re facing a 4.9% property tax increase without seeming to acknowledge that their salary demands feed into this tax increase. There is a connection.

    Overtime costs at OC Transpo were something like $8 million last year. Given the fact that there are some drivers appearing on the $100K+ salary list the way overtime is being handled probably needs to change. I know of no other industry where the union has control of the schedule and thus the overtime. Management should have the right to manage, which it can’t if it doesn’t control the schedule. As a taxpayer this bothers me greatly. As an occasional rider (I walk to work), this worries me because it suggests that there are some drivers out there working an unsafe number of hours in a row. That is an unacceptable situation from a safety point of view that needs to change immediately. Unfortunately, this will probably result in some drivers making less money, but still enough that they can live comfortably.

    Both sides could probably have handled the situation better, with the union having blown opportunities to garner at least some support from the public. Rather than shut public transit down for weeks on end in the middle of winter, during the Christmas season, Cornellier could have said “look, the membership has given me a mandate to call a strike. We don’t want to screw the public too much so we’re going to go on strike for 1 day each work week. Also, because we acknowledge that we provide an important service in reducing the number of people who drink and drive at New Year’s, we’ll work New Year’s Eve.” Basically, make a gesture of good faith and stay at the bargaining table longer than he did. (His predecessor spent forty’ish days at the table last time and got you a contract, after all.)

    Then, if things had started to get bogged down he could have increased the number of days a week you guys were on strike incrementally. Instead, he jumped right to the last step, leaving both the city and the union with almost no options. As a result, the City has had to call on the Minister of Labour to force a supervised vote and the union and its members have incurred the wrath of the riders.

    (I won’t even go into the damage to the union’s image the threats of disrupting the hockey games at Lansdowne Park probably did.)

    Also, now the Canadian Industrial Relations Board is soliciting submissions from anyone affected by the strike to help determine the effect on public health and safety. If it’s determined there has been a negative effect then the union may be ordered to provide a certain level of service. Given the nature of the OC Transpo system, this might be something like a morning to 8PM-type of service.

    One thing that I should be clear on is this: I am not a huge fan of the mayor. I didn’t vote for him and I haven’t been very happy with many of the decisions he’s made during his time in office. I didn’t support the service cuts necessary to achieve his “zero means zero” policy. But, I do have to agree with him when he says that the union’s demands are [mostly] unreasonable and that the membership should have been given the opportunity to vote on the final offer.



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