Thursday, September 22, 2011

Getting The Deal Done

Before I get into the details of the actual tentative deal, I would like to say a few things about collective bargaining and negotiating in general.

Collective bargaining will always begin with both sides making what the other side would consider outrageous and completely unacceptable proposals. These are there just to test the waters and usually quickly dismissed or at least set aside to be trashed later. Other less “outrageous” proposals are also tabled merely as warning to the other party that even though it may not be acceptable now assume that it is not going away and will be brought up again in the next round of bargaining. A collective agreement is a living agreement that evolves over several rounds of negotiations not a document that is contrived today and remains in one form forever.

Once this “pissing contest” is put aside both parties get down to brass tacks and hammer out a deal. Collective bargaining is not like bartering for a blanket on the beach in Puerto Vallarta where you try and get the best price and then both parties walk away never to see each other again. Both parties in collective bargaining have it as being in their best interest to come out with the most workable deal for both sides.

In any type of negotiations there are four possible outcomes: win/win, win/lose, lose/lose and neutral. The ultimate goal would be win/win but a more achievable goal would be neutral. A win/lose or lose/lose outcome is toxic because you have at least one very unhappy party and will lead to a toxic workplace.  With regard to our deal, I would put it into the neutral category.

One of the best tools a party can use in contract bargaining is the use of professional negotiators because they will take the personality aspects out of the equation and keep everyone’s eyes on the ultimate goal of a mutually satisfactory agreement. Our bargaining unit was grateful for the efforts of CUPE national rep, Dave Fleming assisted by CUPE 1004 agent, Steve Varty and 1004 president, Mike Jackson. The PNE was also lucky to have an equally competent negotiator in John Thorne.

Before I get into the actual details of the deal I would like to point out one thing. During the process it became apparent to our committee that the Pacific National Exhibition truly is in financial difficulties at least for the time being. As with all problem-solving there is no benefit in casting blame. Once the problem is identified there are only three questions that need to be answered. How did it happen? How do we solve it? And how do we stop it from happening again? This will always lead to a collective effort moving forward. Hopefully this will happen at the PNE.

 Now on with the deal highlights in general:

-          Wage increases of 1.5% per year effective January 1, 2011, January 1, 2012 and January 1, 2013 and will be retroactive for all current employees and any 2011 retirees.

-          A new joint committee will be set up to review all contracting out on the PNE site. The ultimate goal is to increase the amount of work our members do on site and will likely lead to more cost effective solutions for the employer.

-          A fairer scheduling system for full time Playland employees

-          A two percent increase in the “in lieu” pay for Playland seasonal employees with seniority

Items effecting part-time Public Safety employees:

-          Qualified part-time employees will eligible to join the pension plan. This will be a great benefit because the employer contributes to your plan as well and will help reduce your taxes while you save.

-          All public safety personnel carrying a security license will have their license fee reimbursed provided they work at 200 hours in the previous year.

-          Rate upgrades by seniority will now be in the contract. Up until now there was no contractual onus on the employer to do so.

-          The ability for PNE security personnel to work at Playland provided the Playland roster has been exhausted.

My biggest regret in this round of bargaining was not being able to get a better deal for the lowest paid Playland workers who next season will be getting a wage only marginally better than the provincial minimum wage.

Am I elated with this deal? No.... Is it a good deal? Only time will tell....Do I think it is the best deal we could get at this time? Yes.

For this reason I am recommending a “Yes” vote when it comes up for ratification in the next weeks. It is your right to vote “No” on the deal but before you do so please consider the consequences and what your next step will be.

In closing I would like to thank the above mentioned Mssrs. Fleming, Varty, Jackson and Thorne as well as the other members of our committee of Rob Froescher, Ron Flanders, Dion Bellay, Gary White, Paul McGraw and Aaron Martinello and the PNE management committee of Stacy Shields, Jeff Strickland, Meredith Holmes, Rob Crema, June Goudron and Heather Beckley for all the time and energy everyone put into making this happen. (Hopefully, we will see a few females on our side of the table next round.) 

  Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park! ;-)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hi Teach...Hi Pupe!

For those of you too young to recognize or like a lot of us, too old to remember the literary reference in the title it comes from the late sixties novel “Up the Down Staircase” by Bel Kaufman chronicling the woes of a new teacher struggling through the frustrations of the public school system’s bureaucracy.
This being the first week of the school year for a lot of students and educators, I thought it would be n*** to salute one of the two most underappreciated professions, teachers and also add my humble musings on education in general.
I take pride in calling so many of you life-long friends. And on my Facebook list there are several more of these beautiful dedicated people both currently active and retired. They include kindergarten teachers, elementary school teachers, high school instructors and at least one university professor. There’s even one dude trying to fake his way through teaching Chinese students English in Beijing.
I cherish the efforts that my teachers put forth in aiding me along my journey to where I am today. I can even appreciate the infamous Sister Miriam Henry for making sure we learned all the basics necessary in grade one even though her methods could have been described as brutal. In fact, most of the Spanish Inquisitors would have winced at some of her antics.  I’m pretty sure one of my favourite current grade one teachers uses much more civilized methods to control her students. Right, JS?
The most important thing my teachers instilled in me was the desire to learn more by encouraging my curiosity. This desire did not stop just because I stopped going to school. In the work place, I always made it a habit to stick my nose into every aspect of the business because I wanted to know how every operated not just what went on in my little corner of the office. I’ve always found that the more I learn the greater my appetite to learn becomes and as well the more I want to share my gained knowledge and/or opinions thus I’m inflicting my love of writing upon you.
It would be a lie to say that all the teachers I ran across were excellent and some I would even question their competence but I do not recall running across one teacher that was only in it for the money or the benefits. Oh sure there probably are some teachers in this category but there are much more lucrative ways to accumulate wealth. Despite rumours very few teachers spend their entire summer at their villa in the south of France planning their winter vacation in Aspen.
With regard to education in general, I am saddened to see the path our system is heading. There seems to be a misguided movement that believes marks and test scores are the ultimate goal. It is one thing to use the rote method in teaching basic skills and even then it is not necessarily that beneficial. I can remember being an abysmal failure when it came to rapidly reciting or worse writing out the times tables but I was always the first to identify the answer in a word or logic problem. We have calculators to do the actual multiplication now; the real trick is in figuring out the path to the answer. And would someone please tell me the logic in having to know that 11x12=132 when our entire system is Base 10?
The best way to instil a love of education in a child is not to point out his or her weaknesses but to encourage their strengths. This is where our current system is starting to fail us. Art, music, PE and other creative programs are being cut. This will only lead to more students giving up on education.
The current attitude to post-secondary education is heading in the wrong direction as well. There is a major movement for universities to become job training centers rather than places of education. I think the world would be much better off with more MA’s in Medieval Languages and less MBA’s. (Does that make up for the earlier cheap shot, RD?)
Note to all the English teachers reading this: I couldn’t give a rat’s ass if I made a few grammatical errors here! ;-P
Once again, Thanks, Teach!! :-D

Just in case you are wondering what the other most underappreciated profession is, it would be nurses. Although I have several fabulous friends who are in that calling I don’t plan on writing about them. Personally, I am not really fond of being in the position where it is necessary to deal with a nurse. However, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the wonderful things you do to help people in their times of need.

Postscript - June 15/14 - You can read about my new found increased respect for the nursing profession when you read about my adventures in "How I Spent My 'Fall' Vacation"

Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park! ;-)