Sunday, 1 April 2012

A Deal? Is This April First?

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2012/03/31/ottawa-transit-tentative-agreement.html

Well, that came out of nowhere. The City and ATU279 have reached a tentative agreement on a long term deal, one day before the old contract expires.

So is this a Done Deal? I've been fooled before. A brief history is in order here. It's a short one. Back in August of 2010, we rejected what was later described as a "fair" deal by many drivers. See, what the city wanted to do back then was rush the deal through, get it signed, then re-book all of the work shifts in the span of a week. Drivers balked at the idea of not being able to be present to book their own shifts based on seniority. The booking would have been rushed to the point where most drivers would be relying on somebody else to book their work. The fall booking is a long one, and that seemed to trump what would otherwise have been a gainful deal for drivers.

I am already hearing rumblings of distrust from the front line, but this time it's different. This time, it's the Union leadership that's being questioned. The membership voted to conduct an internal forensic audit of casual expenses at the local by current members of the executive a little over a year ago. The accusation was that some high ranking  officials were bilking the members of union dues by using loopholes in the bylaws to charge up unnecessary or fraudulent discretionary items for personal gains. As a result of the audit, charges were brought forward on two high ranking members of the union leadership. The charges were not criminal charges, only union local bylaw infractions. The forensic audit cost upwards of $120,000. Not exactly chump change. However, only a scant number of members showed up to vote on carrying the charges, so they have been dropped. But the talk in the garage remains. There is a huge distrust of the current union leadership, and that seems to be interfering with the logical interpretation of this new deal.

Details have not been released as to what exactly has been agreed upon. The current rumour suggests that we wont get a look at it for two weeks, a date that falls after a pretty important local vote on changes to the union bylaws resulting from the audit. This is important.

There needs to be a quick dissemination of information on this deal before that bylaw vote. I highly doubt that this deal is a union home-run; I would expect that it is a modestly structured type contract that reflects the current economic trends of collective bargaining. As politics will interfere with common sense at the city level, so will it be with the blue collar set. If this deal is to hang freely behind a curtain for a two weeks, the distrust of the negotiating leadership may ferment into vinegar, clouding judgement and allowing short term issues to obfuscate the long term gains of a fair deal.

Council you need to get the contract into our hands this week, before we make ourselves the April Fools.

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