Who will be sitting across the table from the City with CUPE?
Another week, and another departure of a senior manager at the City of Vancouver. This time it's Debbie Craig, Manager of Labour Relations and according to the City org chart, a direct report to the head of Human Resources. Ms. Craig's job was probably never more important than at the present time, as the City is entering the final year of a five-year contract settled after the 2007 strike.
But as someone here at CityCaucus Tower quipped, "if Geoff Meggs was doing your job would you stick around?" A good question. It's been said that the former Executive Director of the BC Federation of Labour, and husband of the Provincial Secretary (top paid staff) of the BC NDP was effectively appointed as the chief go-to guy for the next collective agreement with public sector workers.
According to a database collated by the Vancouver Sun, CUPE unions were the most generous political donors in the history of British Columbia municipal politics. A close number two was the "Hollyhock Mafia," and their assorted investment companies and consultants that work for US-based charities. This stat sheet we've tabulated shows that Vision Vancouver received $259,700 from CUPE locals for the 2008 election campaign, and their coalition partners COPE received $180,850 for playing nice with Vision.
If you ask me, the money CUPE spent supporting Vision Vancouver was possibly the best political investment the organization could have made. First, you have one of your union brothers on the other side of the negotiating table. That's even better than having the wife of a Vision Vancouver supporter/future staffer working for Judy Rogers during strike negotiations, as was the case in 2007.
Second, Vision Vancouver at the direction of Meggs made among their first policy decisions in early 2009 to remove the City of Vancouver out of the Metro Vancouver Labour Relations Bargaining Unit (MVLRB). Now during all future negotiations with CUPE across Metro Vancouver, instead of standing as one when dealing with the union, all cities will be whipsawed against each other for the best deal.
We know that Vision likes backyard chickens, but that really puts the fox squarely in the henhouse.
As frustrating as Vancouver's actions must seem to fiscally-minded managers, the curious absence of another key figure at Vancouver City Hall has the volume of staff chatter increasing from a whisper to a scream.
Marg Coulson, Vancouver's venerable City Clerk and among the most respected members of management, has taken an indefinite leave of absence as of several weeks ago. It's well-known that Coulson had an extremely rocky relationship with the City Manager, PowerPoint Penny "P3" Ballem. Further, Coulson had to take on Freedom of Information duties when her FOI manager Paul Hancock suddenly quit last fall.
If there is one job that is sure to get you nowhere at the City of Vancouver it's being a Freedom of Information officer under the most secretive administration this town has ever known.
We're keeping our attenna raised for any information to enlighten us as to Coulson's whereabouts. Of course, we welcome any brown envelopes distributed to us – confidentially, of course.
- post by Mike. Follow @MikeKlassen or @CityCaucus on Twitter.