Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mayor Sam Sullivan, Vancouver City, Erin Airton and Alex Tsakumis just don't get collective bargaining

Vancouver must table a response to CUPE 15's last proposal - strike will continue until both sides negotiate under usual collective bargaining process

Jerry Dobrovolny, Globe and Mail, August 2: "City spokesman Jerry Dobrovolny has also said the city will not table a new offer to CUPE Local 15 under the regional mandate, but instead wants the union to come to the city with a more 'reasonable' offer than the one presented last weekend." July

Erin Airton, 24 hours, August 2: "With the 'Richmond model' before us, the ball is in the union's court. If they came to the table with a decent proposal, the strike could be over before next week begins."

Alex Tsakumis, 24 hours, July 27: "The insanity of the demands knows few bounds: An 18 per cent increase in wages over three years and a bump in benefits that would leave Lady Black in the throes of orgasm."

Wrong, wrong, wrong. As Casey Stengel once said of the then-hapless New York Mets baseball team: "Can't anybody here play this game?"

That's exactly how I feel watching Vancouver City Council and the Greater Vancouver Regional District Labour Relations Bureau continue to screw up what should be an easy deal to end the civic workers strike.

And my right-wing columnist friends at 24 hours, Erin Airton and Alex Tsakumis, are equally out to lunch on how bargaining works.

So permit me a comment or two that might help readers, columnists and Vancouver city council understand the dynamic in labour relations at play right now in the Vancouver civic workers' strike.

Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 15, representing inside workers, went back to the table after new contracts were reached without strikes in Richmond, then Burnaby and Surrey.

The city looked at CUPE 15's proposal for settlement and rejected it. Totally fair game as part of negotiations.

But then they asked CUPE 15 for another proposal that was more "reasonable".

That's not on. It's Vancouver City's turn to respond. That's how negotiations work.

Vancouver now needs to table a counteroffer it feels is "reasonable", not make the union guess what "reasonable" is - what is really reasonable will be the final negotiated contract that both sides ratify.

Vancouver can propose whatever it likes. It can antagonize the unions if it wants to with a low-ball offer - but it has to make a move, however small, towards reaching a deal. Then CUPE will again respond, back and forth until the contract is reached.

Let's make something else crystal clear - the contract that CUPE 15, CUPE 1004 representing outside workers and CUPE 391 representing library workers eventually reach will be very, very similar to Richmond's, Burnaby's, Delta's, Surrey's and any other municipality in the GVRD that settles.

So get on with it Mayor Sullivan and Vancouver City - make your counteroffer.

We are all waiting for you to do what is needed to conclude bargaining so we can get on with life in Canada's most popular city!

Stop delaying - it will only make it more difficult.


Budd Campbell said...


The scenario you have outlined, one in which the City's professional negotiators have left out a critical step they would normally be well aware of, and in which certain media people are busy condemning CUPE, essentially tips people off to an underlying strategy.

The Mayor and the NPA want a strike for partisan political motives, electoral motives. They aren't the first politicians in B.C. history to believe, based on their polling data and focus groups and other inputs, to conclude that there are some votes out there to be had in being involved in a conflict with unions.

The key ingredient, of course, is that media pundits need to be available who are willing to go to bat and place the blame, however wrongly, on labour. The apparently trumped up "news stories" about pregnant dog pound applicants being roughed up and Parks vehicles being vandalized are part of that strategy.

Let's not be unduly suprised if the dog pound applicant turns out to be a plant who has a story to tell that fits in nicely with the talking points, and that media pundits are willing to take her word for it and make it front page news, even if the police aren't buying it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Bill Tieleman for your excellent article on the unnecessary strike we are now in the middle of.
Sam Sullivan, like his counterpart in the Premier's office is an idealogue, unable to separate his hatred of unionized workers from what would be the best resolution for the city. Idealogues, like Mr. Sullivan will go to ridiculous lengths just to prove a moot point. Too bad for us that he apprears to have not a modicum of vision or common sense enough to stay at the bargaining table and follow through like Richmond and Burnaby have!

Bill Tieleman said...

I should have mentioned that CUPE has constantly updated website with all municipal bargaining news at

Check it out.

Anonymous said...

J.W. (Jerry) Dobrovolny has been the 'pointman' for the City of Vancouver during this round of bargaining. As mayor sam hides from the public, Jerry is front and centre with blithe ittle snips like: "the union tabled a package that included a 30% increase in wages and benefits over a five year term".

So... How has Jerry done over the last FOUR years?

2003 - $97,296.55
2004 - $103,712.01
2005 - $108,401
2006 - $130,571

Math was never my best subject, but that looks like Jerry received over 30% in 4 years.


Is this the same Dobrovolny that was a New West city councillor?

Dan Grice said...

The collective bargaining process reminds me of shopping for souvenirs in a Tunisian bazaar.

It is time we follow the scandinavian model and set up a permanent publicly funded arbitration process, through a labour court.

Dan Grice
Nominated Candidate, Vancouver Quadra Green Party.

Anonymous said...

Yes.That is the same DobraPhoney New West. Councillor !
Those Wages you quoted DID NOT include HIS benefits
His heath,Dental,Car,Gas,Spending Allowance

Bill Tieleman said...


Yet another civic settlement: North Van District and Rec Commission strike expected to end
[August 2, 2007 11:03 PM]

NORTH VANCOUVER - The pace of Lower Mainland settlements picked up even more today as CUPE 389’s bargaining committee signed a tentative agreement with the District of North Vancouver and North Vancouver Recreation Commission. The 800 civic workers have been on strike since July 23rd, 2007. This agreement is the fifth CUPE municipal settlement in the past week and a half.

CUPE 389 is recommending ratification of the settlement to their members and holding a vote on Saturday, August 4, 2007. District of North Vancouver Council and the Recreation Commission Board are expected to hold their ratification votes shortly.

Anonymous said...

Sam doesn't know what to do next and the longer he stalls, the dumber he looks. The province says they don't wish to get involved.
There will be a settlement eventually and the end result will have been a lot more citizens upset by his lack of action, and the end numbers wil be quite close or the same as everyone else is getting without the garbage build up. Come on Sam , you claim to be a leader. Lead dl

Anonymous said...

I have read the columnists noted here. I understand that being a columnist is to express personal opinions, but I always believed that there was still some responsibilty - to basic journalistic ethics. More specifically, does not one need to have at least a basic understanding of an issue and do "due diligence" on facts? Certainly, I see that in your (BT's) pieces on a regular basis.

These other two columnists demonstrate a failure to understand Negotiations 101 and are reporting on speculation as fact ("workers" slashing tires) with abandon. Not once is it noted the Union proposal is on the table and Vancouver has FAILED to reply. Not noted is that the Employer has not put the Richmond agreement forward. Not once is noted the so called "30%" increase is a costing done by the Employer of an entire package.

These columnists are less then helpful and border on the irresponsible. They give aid and comfortable to an Employer that clearly is both amateur and confused. I think Budd has it right - Vancouver's approach is driven by a clumsy political agenda.

macadavy said...

Sheesh! Is this another instance of a government in need of Supreme Court instruction in how to conduct collective bargaining? Let's hope it doesn't take another decade for them to get it right!

Anonymous said...

I just saw a radio station poll asking if we thought Sam was doing the right thing. Over 75 percent gave him a score of F. I just heard that the city is getting ready to go back to the tbale. maybe thier TV voice gets paid more on the weekends. dl

Anonymous said...

The City of Vancouver has neglected to recognize that local issues are important. This seems to be because we are dealing with a particular political agenda. It must be questioned why Jerry Dobrovolny is acting as the pointman for the City.

From what I understand he is a Professional Engineer with no experience as a professional negotiator.

As a member of one of the affected unions, I am struck by the willingness by Sam Sullivan to make the issue political and use the smokescreen that it is the unions who are the only ones playing politics.

I know honestly in politics is an oxymoron, but Sam and his NPA colleagues are giving even dishonesty a bad name.

I gather that even the NPA is not too pleased with Sam. Too bad the wrong person won their public nomination contest in 2005. It was the only way Sam could have built up the public profile to beat Jim Green, and even then it took a second person on the ballot with the name James Green, for Sam to pull it off.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention W-M behind the scenes? Where did the 70 odd thousand dollars come from for James (not Jim) Green's office, tour bus, and all his printed election propaganda?
Where did James Green so quickly disappear to after the election?
So many questions unanswered questions!!!
Time has come to follow the money!