gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Archive for December 2008

Waiting for the vote

December 31, 2008 @ 03:05 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, Transit strike

I wrote a couple of entries about the OC Transpo strike after it started, but I refrained from writing about it when the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 decided to return to the table.

But it appears that they were not serious about negotiating since they walked away from the table after only a couple of days while at the same time saying they were going to get so many picketers to show up at Lansdowne Park on the 26th that the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship games would be disrupted. Shameful behaviour, at best.

Fortunately, the City was able to get an injunction that only allowed a handful of picketers at each entrance and they weren’t allowed to actually interfere with anyone.

The City has challenged the Union executive to let their members vote on the offer, which the Union has refused to do. According to a CTV story, the president of ATU 279, Andre Cornellier, has stated “he won’t hold a vote that would potentially divide the membership since scheduling and booking concerns only affect a few hundred OC Transpo workers.”

Sounds like Cornellier is admitting that he thinks he doesn’t have the support for the on-going strike from the majority of his members, which I speculated about over two weeks ago.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the vote is held. If the offer currently on the table is accepted by a majority of the members I wonder if their next vote will be to find a new union president. Time will tell.

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2008 @ 00:59 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, General

Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope you’re able to get together with family and friends this holiday season!

Winter has officially begun

December 21, 2008 @ 07:56 By: gordon Category: Weather


Welcome to winter. It officially started at 07:04 this morning, though you can be forgiven if you couldn’t tell the difference here in Ottawa. And to make it extra special, we have a snowfall warning in effect.

The snow started about half an hour ago, but the real stuff has yet to arrive. Watching the Franktown radar, one can see the yellow stripe running roughly east-west marching steadily towards Ottawa. This would be the "band of snow ahead of the low pressure system" alluded to in the snowfall warning.


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.

Crossing the line

December 16, 2008 @ 08:33 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, Transit strike

According to a story on the CBC’s website, people have been threatening Andre Cornellier and his family:

Graham said he is speaking on behalf of the union instead of Cornellier in order to take some of the attention away from Cornellier, who has received some “significant threats” against himself and his family. Police have been called to investigate the matter, Graham said. In the meantime, Cornellier is concentrating on the business of administering the strike, he said.

I can understand people’s frustration with the situation and I certainly don’t support ATU 279’s position, but threatening the union boss or any of the strikers is taking things too far. Threatening the union boss’ family is so far over the line of acceptable behaviour that you need a telescope to even see it. Let’s keep the protests civil.

Hopefully, the person or persons who did this will be found, charged, convicted and do some jail time.

Carbon monoxide

December 16, 2008 @ 00:42 By: gordon Category: General, Health

I was getting caught up with a friend recently and he mentioned that he and his wife had had a bit of a scare a few days ago when their carbon monoxide detector went off. They quickly got out of the house and called the fire department who confirmed that there were elevated levels of CO in the house, particularly in the basement near their natural gas furnace and water heater.

Fortunately, no one was hurt.

A furnace guy spent three hours checking out their furnace and water heater, but he couldn’t find any problems, so the source of the carbon monoxide hasn’t been positively identified, which is a bit troubling. But they do have the carbon monoxide detector upstairs and I think they’re going to get another one for the basement.

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas that is highly toxic. It is formed during the partial combustion of compounds that contain carbon, particularly in internal-combustion engines. Basically, it bonds with red blood cells much more readily than oxygen molecules do, which brings on a whole host of unpleasant effects up to, and including, death. If you are poisoned, chances are that you won’t realize it since one of the effects is to make you dizzy and confused.

Purging it from your system isn’t simply a matter of getting into fresh air. Because it bonds so well to red blood cells, it takes a long time to work its way out, though breathing pure oxygen can help accelerate the process. There can be long-term effects such as memory loss, confusion or even permanent brain damage.

Sadly, six people from two different families in Ontario have died in the last month due to CO poisoning and it kills 300 people in North America every year.

Bad stuff.


The mayor blogs about the transit strike

December 15, 2008 @ 12:49 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, Transit strike

Larry O’Brien has been blogging about the transit strike. Today’s entry is address to the members of ATU 279 and includes a link to a letter sent by Alain Mercier of OC Transpo to the ATU leadership. He continues to encourage the union to allow its members to vote on the offer.

Some people have responded, including several drivers and mechanics. While some of the comments are predictable union spew, some are quite reasonable and offer some insight into the union politics. Excluding the obvious union supporters, there were only a couple of comments suggesting that the City should give in to the union. Giving in would be the absolute worst thing they could do because that only sets things up for the ATU (or any other union) to hold the city hostage when they enter negotiations with the City.

William Seabrooke wrote the following comment:

I being a senior operator and being eligible to retire next year, didn’t bother voting on the first offer, yet was happy about the 98% refusal because of the idea of block booking. I heard nothing but horror stories about it. I believe the reality of the issue was that we had no idea about what it would look like. After reading your explanation Mr. Mercier it doesn’t sound that bad. It’s too bad that explanation was not made availble to us as members of ATU 279 prior to the first vote.

So, the union members voted without the full picture. The burden for that really falls on the union’s negotiating team, I think. If they didn’t feel they had enough information, they should have gone back to the City and asked for a simulation rather than tell their members the City’s offer is completely unreasonable.

A comment from a mechanic named Pat talks about how scheduling is handled in the garage, where it sounds like the schedule is controlled by the City. He seems to feel that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so to speak:

Hello Larry, I am a mechanic at OC. The City changes our schedule in the garage and there doesn’t seem to be a problem. Small out cry but not to much happens. I don’t understand, the schedule should have been changed through a booking and that way the drivers could be use to it before a contract is up. Is that not possible? Just wonder if you could change the wording in the contract since the statement is made that it’s not really block booking. And then change the schedule with the explanation that management has the right to manage.
I hope this will help in a way,
Thank You


The union members need to demand a vote on the offer since it appears they didn’t have all the information they needed to make an informed decision first time ’round. If their union officials refuse, then they should look closely at their union’s constitution and figure out how to force a meeting to be held even if the executive don’t want one. The ATU 279 executive is doing a disservice to its members if they don’t.