Poof...Vision juggernaut kills regional bargaining unit

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

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In a 9-1 vote, Vision used their massive majority to quash their lone opponent - yet again

Last week we reported that Vision brought forward a motion which was music to CUPE's ears. Today we can confirm that in a vote of 9-1 (only NPA Councillor Suzanne Anton voted contrary) Vancouver council decided to pull out of the regional bargaining unit known as the Greater Vancouver Labour Relations Bureau.

The Bureau was first set up in 1964 as a means to strengthen the position of cities when they negotiated collective agreements with CUPE. Vision Vancouver's decision to pull out of the GVLRB will effectively put an end to the organization.

It is worth noting that Vancouver pulling out of the GVLRB received no mainstream media coverage, despite how important this decision is to the future of collective bargaining. This lack of media interest allowed Vision to slip this motion in with only one speaker addressing council to the contrary. That speaker was none other than former NPA councillor Elizabeth Ball. She was appointed as the council liaison to the GVLRB during the last term of council.

I spoke with Ball earlier today and she points out that Vision Councillor Geoff Meggs inaccurately states in his motion that pulling out of the GVLRB will save Vancouver $500,000. She rightly points out the only way the city would save this kind of money is if it doesn't do any research or hire any negotiators. In other words, if Vancouver spends nothing preparing for the next round of negotiations, it would basically be going in blind. It's hard to believe Meggs' plan is going to save even one dime for the city in the long run.

CityCaucus.com obtained a copy of Ball's presentation to council whereby she expresses concern regarding the speed in which Vision wants to pull Vancouver out of the Bureau. Here is an excerpt:

I understand it must be frustrating to wait for a lengthy review. However, isn’t it better to wait for the report and have it well done, thoroughly and correctly, than to rush into a decision that might impact the taxpayers of Vancouver financially for years to come.

Just because another City chooses to take an action does not mean that Vancouver has to follow the same route. Vancouver has many different needs and has had a greater commitment to the goals and success of the Bureau. Vancouver has, since the inception of the Labour Bureau in 1964, provided leadership and has been a stable guiding and reliable influence at the Bureau. Vancouver has a responsibility to our municipal partners in Metro Vancouver to continue to provide that leadership role. The Bureau is what we make it. The Bureau has been a successful organization for over 40 years and has provided excellent value for its municipal members and the taxpayers of the lower mainland. Those services contribute greatly to successful cities. The process works – the City of Vancouver has been recognized as an excellent employer and was recently included on a national Top 100 Employers list.

Ball was apparently asked several questions by the Vision councillors with Tim Stevenson asking her why she bothered to even show up and voice any concerns. This is becoming a bit of a theme for Vision Vancouver who are increasingly asking why people would publicly dare to question their motives. Ball went on to state:

Currently, trained negotiators are aware of the history and needs of each municipality and work with those municipalities year after year. They know the benefits, salary levels, and job descriptions of each city. Without trained negotiators to work side-by-side with City staff, who are already fully employed running the City, the process is likely to be both uninformed and unfair to both taxpayers and employees. The best negotiations are negotiations where the balance of power is as close to equal as possible. CUPE is a national organization and the City of Vancouver is not. When the lower mainland cities came together in 1964, this action was taken to create a balance of power at the negotiating table that was fair to both the employees and the taxpayers.

There is a mention in the Motion B2 of potential savings of more than $500,000 a year. I am surprised at this number given the depth of research necessary to conduct a genuinely informed process for each separate negotiation, in order to guarantee over 9,000 employees with a fair and informed agreement and the taxpayer a legitimate result.

If you choose to walk way from and lose that depth of experience and resources, then researching employment issues and hiring negotiators on a fee basis can be extraordinarily costly. Currently, Vancouver does not pay a fee to the Bureau to provide negotiators for major civic institutions - the library, the police with 3 unions, and the three museums. Think how expensive that will be for these institutions, and therefore Vancouver taxpayers, if those tax-payer funded institutions have to add those expenses to their bottom line. The costs will almost certainly be more than $500,000 per year if they want to conduct informed, fair, and balanced negotiations.

In the end, despite Ball's request for Council to wait for the appropriate studies to be completed, Vision rammed through a 9-1 vote (yet again) and effectively killed the GVLRB. In the years to come, Metro Vancouver taxpayers will likely look back at this quiet debate and wonder why they didn't speak up when they had the chance.

1 Comment

Geoff Meggs' latest blog post addresses this issue head on, especially the potential savings.

http://www.geoffmeggs.ca/2009/11/07/vancouvers-labour-relations-burden/

If the current costs are about $1m, and if we pull out they will be several hundred thousand, that seems to be savings of around $500,000, as Geoff first posed.

Rebuttal, CityCaucus?

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