Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jockeying starts early for city, union in negotiations

Although the contract between the Amalgamated Transit Union 279 and OC Transpo doesn't expire until March 2011, and with the winter 2008-09 53-day transit strike still fresh in our minds, both sides of the labour agreement have already started posturing to gain advantage in the upcoming labour talks.

Through his mayoral campaign and since, mayor Jim Watson has been stating his intention to mend the relationship between the city and the union; on the day she was selected as chair of the transit commission, Gloucester-Southgate Councillor Diane Deans talked to CTV Ottawa about "a new era of co-operation" between the two sides. Although it's still very early in their respective mandates (Deans was just approved as chair of the commission yesterday), neither has done much, if anything, in the way of tangible action to change anything.

Meanwhile, OC Transpo general manager Alain Mercier has initiated a survey of workers to get to the bottom of the seemingly ever-present low morale issues at OC Transpo--a survey which, according to acting president of the ATU 279 Mike Aldrich, is identical to one which was done five years ago, as reported by the Ottawa Citizen. Aldrich said issues are the same as were determined in the previous survey--"running times, scheduling and poor morale throughout the company"--and didn't approve sending the survey out.

On the other side, the ATU 279 leadership is using some more strongly-armed tactics, putting pressure on the city to make changes even before the union will agree to come to the table. Aldrich has complained that the negotiating team--led by Mercier--is the same as it was during the last negotiation, and that he wants to see some "changes" before proceeding with negotiations. From the CBC:
"We have the same players negotiating the same proposals," said Aldrich, referring to the 51-day strike in 2008-09 that shut down buses in the city.

"We know what happened last time. I'm not interested in going down that road."


"One of [Watson's] campaign promises was to repair the poisoned atmosphere at OC Transpo but so far nothing has been fixed," Aldrich said. "So until we see some changes, or improvements, we'll wait."
Although posturing such as this isn't really uncommon in labour discussions, it's still a little unsettling to hear that issues remain, and that these issues are enough to delay advance negotiations. On the plus side, both sides have said they want to avoid a strike; Aldrich told the CBC that there is "no way the union wants a strike".


Dean said...

It has also being reported the the union is challenging the arbitrators decision (which they agreed to abide by) over scheduling and will not come to the table until it is settled to their satisfaction. And have publicly made comments how mayor Watson is just Larry O"Brian with hair.

With positions like that and complaining that the mayor hasn't fixed everything after three weeks in office how can anybody believe the union has any intention in bargaining in good faith.

guyincognito said...

Actually, the union has taken the scheduling matter back to the arbitrator because the City hasn't abided by the decision.
Collective agreement? What collective agreement?

Dean said...

Well I guess we will let the arbitrator decide if they have a case.
That still does not take away from the name calling or demanding they get to decide who management sends to negotiate. Can OC Transpo demand as a precondition who they will negotiate with? Can they say they want none of the same people for the same reasons?

The new mayor is setting up a transit commission to take city council politics of the negotiating process. Yet the union claims he has done nothing yet. Or that things haven't been fixed after a few weeks.

This public my way or the highway attitude is not something you would associate with people who have really taken a wait and see attitude.

ConcernedOttawaCitizen said...

A point on the survey. I spoke to a couple of drivers and employees at OC and the Union actually particpated in the design of the survey, even requestted certain questions be asked! Then the day after it was launched- the leadership-(if you can call them that) decided not to particpate.

What kinda game is going on with the union?