Tag Archives: unions

Mayor Ford…Sigh

This is what it has come to. Toronto citizens are in the throes of what amounts to the 5 Stages of Grief, where Mayor Rob Ford is concerned.

Stage one: Denial.

Yes, in the beginning, although the signs of trouble appeared early, many supporters continued to, well, support their vote for the Gravy Train conductor—not unlike the handful of Americans who believed invading Iraq was the right thing to do, until it became evident there were no WMD’s, that the whole thing was a ruse perpetrated by the highest level of government. It didn’t take long for Mr. Ford and his henchmen to find out there is little or no gravy flooding the corridors of City Hall. Remember his campaign mantra: “There will be no cuts to services!”

Stage two: Anger.

Now we have thousands of workers under the chopping block; TTC fares are rising while services are reduced; Car Revenue Tax (a source of income) eliminated and bicycle lanes removed (at taxpayers’ expense); library services reduced; arts funding reduced; the city’s poorest citizens evicted from public housing so it can be sold; waterfront development torpedoed (remember the giant Ferris Wheel?). Property tax increase imminent. You get the idea. But at last, the masses are mobilizing, showing up for City Hall meetings to voice their concerns. Open warfare between the Brothers Ford and Toronto’s most priceless asset, Dame Margaret Atwood. A handful of sensible council members finally popping their heads out of the trench and daring to openly challenge the mayor and his cronies on some of their more outrageous maneuvers.  The police department, which was promised an increase in ranks, openly defies the mayor’s demand for a ten-percent reduction in budget (i.e.: layoffs).

Stage three: Bargaining.

The unions are sending up flares. Toronto can expect disruptions in many areas in the coming year, thanks to Mr. Ford’s bully tactics. Waterfront Toronto is attempting to save its marriage with the city, because it has already invested so much time and money in the project, and because it remains the best option for the lakefront development (sorry, Robbie, no Ferris Wheel for you and your little brother). Library management is taking control of how cuts will be made in its own department, despite the Ford plan, which was to simply shut most of them down altogether. Just to name a few.

Welcome to stage four: Depression.

No longer shocked or outraged by the mayor’s imbecilic words and actions, all we can do is sigh. We feel powerless. An election is still several years away, unless some plucky lawyer steps forward with a strategy to impeach the Mayor. Come on, Bay Street, if a few of you can come out in support of some rag-tag “Occupy” protesters who didn’t even have an issue to fight for, the least you can do is save your own city from this bloated Nero, before he burns the place to the ground. I know most of you live on Mississauga Road, but you work downtown, and you will soon be paying road tolls to get your Jag into the underground lot, unless you do something soon.

Stage five: Acceptance.

We haven’t got there, yet, but we will. Like the battered wife, we will eventually be beaten into submission. And make no mistake, the appearance of Acceptance will be entirely superficial, a defense mechanism, the only way to cope, to keep the rod from once again coming down on our heads.

Stage six: vote.





In a city already reeling from the Bush-esque buffoonery of its mayor(s), Toronto cannot be surprised by the latest headline from the TTC, in which it proposes a fare hike, job cuts and longer wait times. Oh, and they also propose to leave behind 1,800 dialysis patients, who currently rely on Wheel-Trans to get them around. The reason: these users do not have mobility devices. I guess the bus doesn’t count as a mobility device, and in any case, they will no longer have the bus, because the TTC wants to take it away from them, ostensibly because they use it too much—presumably to get to and from the hospital, so they can receive their dialysis treatment.

Ah, TTC…the better way. Unless you are a cripple. Or poor. Or TTC management. Yes, it’s the managers who will take the brunt of the proposed layoffs. This might seem like a good idea on the surface, since most large organizations are top-heavy. But, while axing a few managers will save some money in salaries, it’s the unionized worker who costs the transit the most in the long run, due to a very long list of expensive benefits, paid out over the years—benefits the managers do not receive. And with a collective agreement under their belts (aka: gravy), it’s nearly impossible to get rid of unionized workers, so it’s just easier to show the managers the door. One can assume that once the front offices are vacated, there will be no one to take your complaint about your bus driver, whom you photographed as he was texting, whilst speeding down Steeles Avenue. Oh well. That’s another story, down the road.

As for a fare hike, that subject has been covered sufficiently, both here and elsewhere, that it need not consume any more of our energy. But it harkens back to a broader subject that bears repeating: public transit should be subsidized by local and provincial governments. Yes, it should be lean and efficient. If the TTC feels it can eject nearly 300 managers and not suffer too much, there is indeed room for improvement. But when its number-one priority is to make a profit (or at least break even, or not carry a deficit), costs will always go up and service will always slide. That’s just the balance of nature. A subsidized transit will earn those governments back money in other related areas, such as road maintenance and healthcare, to name two.

Yes, of course the TTC should try to be financially responsible, but not at the expense of the service it is meant to provide. In order to satisfy Mr. Ford’s mandate, it feels it is okay to screw passengers for more cash, edging out even more of the marginal riders, reduce services by making riders wait longer for the bus, and specifically exclude a desperate and handicapped segment of the population. Perhaps those dialysis patients can get a ride to the hospital in Rob Ford’s Hummer. Apparently he is accessible by phone, even while behind the wheel.

League of Extraordinary Madness

I had to knuckle the disbelief from my eyes as I read that the NBA was facing a lockout. This is basketball we’re talking about, for those of you who, like me, reach for the tuner when the sportscast comes on. Yes, professional sportsmen are unionized. Which is bizarre in the extreme.

More than a century ago, labour unions extended the life expectancy of the average working man by twenty years. They saved children from a life of drudgery and danger by prohibiting their employment. And, perhaps most significantly, they created in North America what we know as the Middle Class. Guidelines for hours, pay, benefits and safety fueled the Industrial Revolution and generated a century of wild consumerism. Thank you, unions.

Unions set the foundation for equality, especially within industries such as manufacturing, where great numbers of workers did identical, or at least comparable, tasks, which were measured and rewarded ostensibly by seniority. The automotive industry is a major case in point. Put in your thirty years on the line, take your pension and enjoy. It didn’t matter, really, if one welder’s bead was slightly neater than the next. All that mattered was number of years in service. Thank you, unions.

So who had the brilliant idea that professional athletes needed similar benefits and protections? Have we seen decades of abuse and neglect heaped upon these hapless jocks? Have we deprived them of the means to buy a third Rolls Royce to occupy that empty bay in back of the Tudor-style mansion in Rosedale? Have they not traveled in style, as they crossed the continent in order to “play”? Have they not been well fed, well shod (has even one player ever paid for his own shoes?), lavished with graft and parties and sponsorship deals?

In an industry where individual performance is everything, value is earned by the player alone. What is a union going to do for him that his agent cannot? Been in the league for three years, here’s your salary, plus an extra week’s paid holiday. Nice. After ten years, someone else carries your duffle bag and you get the aisle seat on the plane. Fifteen years, you get the bulkhead and you don’t have to pay for the ham sandwich. Think of the leg room, baby! Thank you, unions. Thank you, from those of us who have been forced to build non-union, five-figure careers on the back of personal performance. No set pay scale, no overtime, no Blue Cross. Show up on time, do the best job you can, and hope that you will have a little nest egg when you are made “redundant” by robotics, or a piece of software.

I feel so much better, knowing my local Raptors are being looked after so well. A fifteen minute break every hour-and-a-quarter. Free coffee in the lunchroom. Double-time-and-a-half on Sundays. A premium dental plan, because when you only make 5 million per year (not including sponsorship deals and paid appearances), it’s tough to make the monthly payments on that new diamond-studded grill…for your Doberman.

Don’t get me wrong. I know it’s a hard life. The commute is grueling, the work often goes well into the evening, on-the-job injury is a very real danger, and a venereal disease is only a hotel room away from painful reality. It takes months of study and practice to achieve, in the interview, a level of inanity to emulate a lobotomized gerbil (a couple of concussions and some glue can substitute for months of study and practice). But it might come across to the average fan as somewhat excessive, to employ collective bargaining in the glitzy world of mega-deal superstars. Give ’em their 18 mil, or else they go on strike. NBC loses 240 million in broadcast revenue. Club owners go into receivership. Stadiums lay off janitorial staff. Hot dog vendors leap from blue zone balconies. Parking lot attendants move back to Kenya, where the livin’ is easy.

Pay up, man. My girlfriend needs new breasts and my wife needs a new tanning booth. You don’t want me to call Vinnie. Just leave the envelope on the table and back out of the room.

My goodness, what will I do if this lockout goes into regular season? What if the hockey players’ union looks at this deal and decides it wants parity, and asks its members to strike? And if a strike drags on, they’ll have to move to High Park, for pity’s sake. What’s next? Letting the dog walkers go? Nannies from Poland? Driving a Ford? Think of the landscapers, revving their leaf-blowers at the curb, waiting for the cheque to clear. Oh, the horror.

Thank you, unions. You make professional sports worth watching.

Goin’ Postal

Remember when people cared if there was a postal strike? If you are under thirty, the answer is probably no, so here’s a bit of history:

Back in the good ol’ days, let’s say the Eighties, every couple of years or so the postal workers would go on strike, for all the usual reasons: more money, shorter hours, more benefits, more money, fewer hours, better benefits, more money, &c. We, the public, never failed to be outraged. The mere threat of another postal strike would send ripples of fear around the nation. If they don’t deliver our letters, there will be bedlam, carnage, blood in the streets! It’s true, that’s how important it was, the postal service. And not only were there regular strikes, but every couple of years or so the Post Office would increase the price of a stamp by a penny. Thirty two cents? Outrage, I tell you! Honey, get my gun!

And then came the internet.

When was the last time you mailed a letter? Mother’s Day card, probably. In the event of a mail strike, you’d send her an e-card. You might still receive a bill or two in the mail, but you probably pay them all online, as you should. Yes, there are things you just don’t or can’t do online, like sending a registered email. Insure an email. Lose an email. Steal the birthday money out of an e-card. You get the idea. The thing is, if the Posties go on strike, as they are currently threatening to do, do we really care? I mean, back in the good ol’ days, we relied on mail delivery for so many things, personal and business. Now it only matters (somewhat) at Christmas, and there’s always FedEx (you shouldn’t have waited until  the last minute, again).

On the other hand, the Post Office offers one of the best deals around—for an analogue service. Imagine: for about half a buck, they will pick up your letter from your corner box, put it on a plane, fly it to Vancouver, give it to some flat-footed flunky who will personally deliver it to your Aunt Cordelia’s front door. That’s value for dollar. You can only get half of something at the Dollar Store for that. Think about it.

Canada Post is rightly attempting to drag the old gal into the twenty-first century by reducing union costs. With all this electronic mail, which makes them redundant, they need to put things into perspective, bring things down to a place that makes sense in today’s world. And by “things” I mean the postal unions.

I’m sorry for them, really. No employee wants money or benefits taken away; although I gather what’s mainly happening is that money and benefits are being reduced for new hires, as opposed to being taken away from the old ones. In any case, we like to think, as we get older, that things should get better, not worse, and for unions in particular, it’s been a hard lesson to learn. That the old patterns of more-more-more is no more. There is a new reality. And let’s face it, as far as their strike threat goes, well, they’re shooting blanks.

In any case, I’ve decided to do my Christmas shopping now, get it into the box before Labour Day. No last minute rush for me. Probably. Maybe. We’ll see.