Tuesday July 31, 2007
Clueless Sam's strike show
By BILL TIELEMAN
However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
An unnecessary strike. Hundreds of thousands of citizens without services. Thousands of workers without paycheques.
And all because of a mayor who stuck to a flawed strategy to bash unionized workers even as the garbage piled up around his own office.
Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan has made a total mess of a simple labour relations exercise - keep bargaining and remain flexible.
So now it's Sam's Strike.
As Vancouver enters week two of a walkout by inside and outside city workers, it's clear Sullivan both provoked and prolonged the dispute.
Consider the facts: Sullivan forced Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 15 members to vote on a "final" city offer.
Then, despite an overwhelming 89 per cent rejection vote, Sullivan told them to reconsider, that they had to accept his proposed 39-month term to get past the 2010 Olympics, and that there would be no further moves by the city.
And he insulted workers by falsely claiming they wanted to disrupt the Winter Games.
Despite this, CUPE Local 15 booked hotel rooms for negotiations - but the city wouldn't talk.
Faced with no bargaining and no other options, the union struck.
But in a "What, me worry?" response worthy of a Mayor Alfred E. Neuman of MAD Magazine, Sullivan brazenly told the Globe and Mail newspaper that settling the civic strike was not his "top priority" as mayor.
Well, what the hell is?
Maybe Sullivan and his Non-Partisan Association councillors top priority actually could be found at last week's city council meeting.
Unbelievably, NPA councillor Kim Capri actually introduced a notice of motion that all city-run food facilities use only eggs from organic, free-range chickens!
Well cock-a-doodle-do, Chicken Lady - wake up and smell the coffee - if you can over the stench of garbage - and get to work on settling the strike!
Fortunately, other mayors and councillors aren't as clueless as the NPA.
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie reached a deal with CUPE workers, a five- year contract that goes well past the 2010 Olympics and the 2009 civic election. No strike.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and Surrey Mayor Diane Watts are also expected to announce contracts there shortly. By staying at the table and being flexible, other municipalities are reaching collective agreements without strikes or a disruption of services.
Sullivan told reporters that the city had raised the idea of a five-year contract but the unions had rejected it.
Not true, said Mike Jackson, president of CUPE 1004. "I think he's a weasel," Jackson said of Sullivan.
Perhaps, but when the mayor is more concerned with chickens than a strike by city workers, you know it's all bull.