Friday, July 10, 2009

Another Reason to Hate Unions

Almost three weeks ago, City of Toronto municipal workers went on strike. They're cheesed because the City wanted to change things like sick day payouts and whatnot. (I'm posting via my Blackberry, so if you want to know more, I suggest that you Google it. Sorry to be THAT blogger today.) Now, the City was making such changes because they just can't afford to pay out unused sick days at the end of a worker's tenure. I don't even know of any corporations that do this to begin with but, if there are others, there's just so much wrong with that. The obvious thing being that it encourages sick people to come to work, spreading their germs everyewhere. But I digress. Back to the point at hand.

The City can't afford a fancy contract, which got the workers all miffed, which resulted in a strike. The result is that garbage pickup hasn't taken place, city-run daycares are closed, there's no ferry service to the Toronto Island, community centers are closed, and nobody can get a building permit. Just to name a few.

So, who's to blame? Well, I do blame the unions, for starters. First of all, in case you haven't heard, there's a global recession going on, and guess what? Toronto isn't immune to it. If the City says it doesn't have money to fund fancy contract demands, then odds are that they're not playing hardball. Secondly, in the midst of said global recession where people are actually losing jobs, you'd think that these union blowholes would be a little less selfish and just be glad that they have jobs. And speaking of this pesky recession (it just keeps coming up, doesn't it?), this little strike is costing the City a whole whackload of cash in lost revenues. No ferry service to the Island means that no tourists come, and that means that all of those countless businesses on the island from ice cream vendors to bicycle rentals are hurting. Who knows - they may even have to declare bankruptcy. And what about those poor parents who have their kids in city-run daycares? Now they have to scramble to find alternative childcare arrangements for their kids. That may mean finding a nanny, which is pricey, or a non-city-run daycare. Given how near-impossible it is to find a daycare spot in Toronto by applying even one year in advance, the odds of finding a spot on short-notice are NOT good.

Oh, and there's that garbage issue. City trash cans are overflowing, so there is now garbage on the streets. Residents were encouraged to either hold onto their trash until the strike was over (HA!), or dump their trash at transfer stations. The transfer station idea sounded good, except for the fact that striking workers blocked acces to the transfer stations. One friend of mine even told me that these guys went so far as denting cars to prevent people from dumping their trash at said transfer stations. The result is that the City has turned certain parks and arenas into dumping grounds. Gross. This, of course, is hurting tourism. If I were a tourist, I wouldn't want to go to a city where the streets are strewn with garbage.

Now, as much as I hate the CUPE unions involved in this strike for what they are doing to the city, I'm also mad at our government for standing idly by, letting the unions get away with this. Our illustrious Premier, Dalton McGuinty thinks we're perfectly okay to wait this out and acts as if our only problem is storing garbage in our garages for a bit longer. As a result, it appears that nobody in the provincial government will help. The provincial Tories don't want to introduce back-to-work legislation because it would allegedly be seen as a win for the unions. The NDP won't get off their arses becaus they are union-lovers (alas, their one big shortcoming). And the Liberals have made it pretty clear that they won't help per McGuinty's ignorant comment. Uh, Dalton, it'd not JUST the garbage, remember?

Mayor Miller doesn't seem to want to force the provincial government's hand either. He even went so far as to go on CNN to tell the Americans that Toronto is still a great tourist spot in spite of the strike. How about using that energy to put an end to the strike rather than to beg the Americans to visit our trash-laden city?

It's high time for the government to get off their asses and do their damned jobs. In my opinion, these union guys should all be fired and their jobs should be given to non-union workers who would be more than happy to have steady income in these tough economic times. When I'm unhappy with my job, I don't just walk off. I'd get fire for that. Why are these guys given special protections that white-collar workers don't get?

I just hope that this strike ends sooner rather than later, and that we don't end up like Windsor. Their City workers been on stike for a couple of months now, with no end in sight. What a lovely thought.
Powered by BlackBerry


David S said...

First there are a few inaccuracies to your blog entry. The union worker's aren't asking for anything more than what their counterparts already have. Second, Dalton McGuinty himself is storing his own garbage in his own garage like everyone else who's affected by this. And three, people visit cities strewn with garbage all the time (New York City and Mexico City are two that come to mind). :P Now you know me, I'm no fan of the unions either, having just been in a union that traded away the basics like cost of living allowance and extra hours for no additional pay, and paying you less if you got promoted (yeah, it is a pretty crappy union) to protect the pension plan for the more than 80% of people in the union that would retire between now and 10 years from now. I digress. I think a number of people are to blame for the mess and that includes the voters that picked Mr. Miller and his group of merry men and women (that being said, it was between him, a neo-con in Ms. Pitfield, and Mr. Tory who was responsible for carrying out Mr. Rogers' negative billing scheme... so with those choices I guess we might have been in the same situation as we are in now). I think if I had the concept of a sick bank, that I'd want to hang on to it, especially if my fellow unionmates in the other unions the city has got the same deal. The reality is the City didn't deal with the issue for the police and firefighters and now they're using this union as the precedent setting case for future negotiatons. Being in a pretty crappy union, I understand that once you lose it you never get it back. I think the city has done a poor job at explaining their alternative to the sick bank, which is the idea of short-term disability. In a dollars and cents way it could potentially cost the same as a sick bank, but it's highly unlikely. It also offers people who don't meet the 10 years of service requirement to cash out their sick days at 50% of their value, to get some relief if they really do become sick. I think the other thing that we're not hearing is from the Union, on if they get what they want, what services do they think we should cut back on? Also the taxpayer really hasn't taken the time to figure out the issues and has just jump on the media hype, of it being all about sick days and pay increases. I'm sure there are a huge number of issues, but that these two are the simplest that can be exploited by both sides. Hopefully the other issues will come out and the city workers will go back to work. In the meantime, I'll be packing my garage full of garbage... which last month just worked out to one black bag. :)

IndyComp0T1 said...

A few comments to address your points, David.

First of all, I think that (not all, but certainly many) union members have a lot of perks for not doing much of anything. You're saying that they're asking for nothing more than what their counterparts already have. Although sick day banking sounds like a lovely idea, a) I've never heard of non-unioned employees having this, and b) as I mentioned in my blog entry, it promotes sick people coming to work so that they can cash out on their unused sick days after they're done with their employment tenure.

As I pointed out, the economy sucks. People should be happy to have jobs, and these union jerks shouldn't be so damned picky. I see your point on once you lose it, you never get it back, and that sucks. In that case, my suggestion would be for the unions to put in a clause saying that they would like benefits X, Y, and Z re-instated in the contract once the economy picks up or something to that effect.

And yes, I am aware that Dalton McGuinty is storing his garbage in his garage. How nice. I'd like to point out, however, that, as I'd mentioned before, it's not JUST about the garbage. City-run daycares being closed down are forcing parents to find alternate daycare arrangements for their kids. This may mean staying home from work or scrambling to find a nanny. And let's not forget business at Center Island who are losing money as a result of this strike. Now, on the point of storing garbage. It's awesome that you've only used one garbage bag in the last month. I used to be like that too. Unfortunately, after the birth of my daughter, our garbage output went way way up, despite our best efforts to curb them. And unfortunately we don't have Green Bin service for our condo (though kind of a moot point a) because of the strike and b) because Green Bin service in Toronto produces compost unfit for gardens - another story for another day).

I think it's unfair to blame the voters who picked Mr. Miller for mayor because, as you pointed out, the pickings were slim. It was really a race between crap, crappier, and crappiest. Pick one of the lesser three evils.

True, people visit cities strewn with garbage all the time, but Toronto is neither NYC nor Mexico City. It is not a city where people expect to see garbage. And let's face it, downtown Toronto is looking gross. Even Yorkville looks nasty. That's a huge turn-off.