Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Look Out Ontario, Things Look Rocky

On the way to work this morning I caught a headline in the local Toronto (Red) Star.

Public sector wage freeze could lead to strikes: CAW

It looks like we could be in for another series of work slow downs and/or strikes again. We haven't seen any really since the Harris years when then premier Mike Harris fought long and hard against the public sector unions about wages and benefits. I do know that the teachers unions fought the McGuinty government as well over contract negotiatians. In fact I think the teachers union fought the Bob Rae (NDP), Mike Harris (Progressive Conservative), and the McGuinty (Liberal) governments.

Anyway, it's a recession and the government is in a deep deficit (19+ billion) and needs to reign in spending. 55% of the provincial budget goes towards public sector employees. Sounds like a "no duh" move right? Wrong!
As the Star first reported last week, the initial round of talks fell apart after the CAW stormed out on the second day, followed by the Canadian Association of University Teachers and the Service Employees International Union, on behalf of 46,000 workers in long-term care homes.

“It wasn’t bargaining, it wasn’t negotiations,” Lewenza said of the government’s freeze agenda.

Ignoring a gag order imposed on the talks, he said they were full of “discrepancies,” such as the government’s position it can protect public services while capping wages of workers who perform them.

“It’s inconsistent,” Lewenza added from a charity golf tournament in nearby Woodstock. He said the CAW is open to “sit down and talk” with the government and employers about finding ways to improve services.

Oh, and to my American readers, yes the SEIU up here is just as ruthless as their American counterparts.

Now these were just one batch of unions. The university teachers, Canadian Auto Workers, and SEIU. There's more unions out there...

A third phase is set to take place Sept. 20 to Oct. 3 with teacher unions, the Power Workers Union, GO Transit workers in the Amalgamated Transit Union.

At the Monday session, CUPE leaders representing 230,000 workers challenged the government’s assertion that wages are taking a rising share of spending, but said his members “do not have their heads in the sand” when it comes to the province’s financial challenges.

It’s too early to say whether the talks could result in strikes, said CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” he told the Star. “We’re interested in engaging the government in a real discussion. . . . We’re not interested in walking away.”

McGuinty said he hopes deals can be reached co-operatively as the government plays a facilitator between the many unions and public sector employers involved.

I think the only deal that the unions want is where the government gives them whatever they want. Damn the taxpayers, we are just money bags to the unions and the government.

So, what's going to happen? Well Mr Lewenza had this to say.

Lewenza credited McGuinty for “jumping through hoops” in a bid to get framework agreements with hundreds of unions and employers — in contrast to the cuts imposed by Harris — but predicted the effort will fail.

“I don’t believe he’s gonna get it done. . . . This is too big.”

Lewenza noted the recession has already put a damper on private-sector contracts so the same is likely to happen in the public sector.

“Just let the bargaining process play itself out.”

Notice the Star's dig at former premier Mike Harris? I saw my taxes go down, balanced budget legislation passed, and a whole bunch of other good governing practices initiated. All tossed the minute the Liberals got back into power.

What do I predict? Wailing, crying, gnashing of teeth from both sides of the negotiating table. End result? Both the provincial government and Public Sector Unions will bend the Ontario taxpayer over the barganing table and have their way. If we are lucky, we will be kissed first.

Update: Welcome readers of Lumpy, Grumpy, and Frumpy.


  1. I don't know, man. I'm a public servant, and I'm good with a wage freeze. Don't confuse the Union big guys with the union itself. They won't call a strike vote, cuz they know they won't get the overwhelming support they think they talk about.

  2. Thanks for your personal view from the trenches Anonymous. In times of budgets everyone has to bite the bullet. Maybe we can talk the provincial government into that as well.