Possible municipal strike in Toronto

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Stockholm
Possible municipal strike in Toronto

Since it looks like Toronto may well be paralyzed by a municipal workers strike as of midnight tonight, why not start a thread on it. I have to say that I have somewhat mixed views on this. I would say that in the vast, vast, vast majority of labour disputes - I side with labour. When the municipal workers went on strike in 2002, I was 100% on their side since it was obvious that Lastman and co. were trying to break the union with contracting out etc... But this time I'm a bit more conflicted. We and pro-union mayor and council and we are also in the midtst of a huge downturn and the city is facing a massive deficit etc... and it looks like we could have a paralyzing strike over whther or not city workers should be able to bank all of the "sick days" that they don't use because they are not sick and then cash out when they retire for all the accumulated cahs value of those days.

I'm sorry but i just don't get it. To me "sick days" are there for people who are SICK. Its something that is there for compassionate grounds. If you don't get sick then your reward is not being sick. This idea that the 18 days of sick days per year is some sort of entitlement that a person has even if they are perfectly healthy just doesn't make sense to me.

When you consider all the really serious issues that face working people and when you consider how many people working in sweatshops like Wall-Mart would benefit from being in a union - this just seems silly and likely to be a public relations fiasco for the labour movement. If I felt for one minute that the city employees were about to strike over something that seemed at all justifiable - I'd be 100% in their corner - but being able to get six months pay when you retire as a reward for not using your so-called sick days doesn't cut it.

theboxman

Why not?

Cueball Cueball's picture

Yeah. Fancy that, friend firmly "sides with labour" in the "vast, vast, vast majority of labour disputes" disagree with the union involved on labour issues twice in the same day.

nussy

Miller gave himself and all his cronies a raise. Lets not forget that.

Is the union always right no matter what? Is there ever a time the union could be wrong? But in this case they only want to keep what they already have.

Stockholm

I don't object to giving the workers a raise that is consistent with raises given to city councillors and to unionized workers in other jurisdictions. But it seems that the sticking point in this case is this idea that if you don't get sick you should be entitled to carry over your unused sick days year after year and then cash out for tens of thousands of dollars when you retire. I just don't agree with that in principle. "Sick days" are for people who are SICK - they are not supposed to be the equivalent of 18 additional statutory holidays. If you are lucky enough NOT to get sick and never have to take any sick days off - then that is your reward and the unused sick days should be forfeited.

Otherwise, if we give everyone tens of thousands of dollars as a reward for hardly ever being sick when they retire - at some point someone will make the valid point that this is unfair to people who have a lot of health problems and who DO take a lot of sick days because they are ill. They then miss out on this windfall when they retire through no fault of their own - why should they be penalized for having a lot of health problems??? So what next? Does that mean that to make it fair for everyone we should just give everyone six months salary when they retire whether they have used all their sick days or not? Just to be fair?

If someone from CUPE would like to explain their side of this issue, I'd love to hear it because I really want to be on their side - but this is a difficult one.

Sineed

Quote:
To me "sick days" are there for people who are SICK. Its something that is there for compassionate grounds. If you don't get sick then your reward is not being sick. This idea that the 18 days of sick days per year is some sort of entitlement that a person has even if they are perfectly healthy just doesn't make sense to me.

Agree 100% with this part.  Sick days are like medical insurance; it's better not to have to use them.  And if you are rewarding people for not using their sick days, you're doing two things: (a) encouraging sick people to come to work and spread their filthy germs around to everybody; and (b) you're discriminating against people who genuinely are sick because they end up being paid less.

In the midst of a level 6 flu pandemic, I'd just as soon people didn't come to work sick.

remind remind's picture

I am with CUPE on this, and IMV any  other position is either a desire to strip workers of their hard fought rights, or outright union bashing.

People who get cancer, or any other serious illness or injury suddenly, and who have banked days have a cushion for all their additional and normal expenses, until other benefits kick in. Sick pay banking is not a reward, it is a finacial fall back.

People who are sick and have sick days usually stay at home. It is those who don't, that go to work.

I would bet there are very few people who bank all 18 of their days per year. And even fewer would have them all at the end of their employment.

Moroever, economic downturn has SFA to do with it, we are talking long term here, not short term. I mean how many could there possibly be retiring this year, or even next, with scads of banked time, so much so that it would even impact the coffers of the city?

Getting rid of the banking would just mean more people would call in sick when they are not, in order to use them before they lose them. Thus work productivity would go way down, which would cost the city and tax payers more in the long run.

Just google how much sick time costs per year to see, if you don't believe me.

Stockholm

"Getting rid of the banking would just mean more people would call in sick when they are not"

Are you suggesting that the good unionized city employees of Toronto would stoop so low as to commit FRAUD and THEFT by calling in sick when they are perfectly healthy. You are slandering the members of CUPE in Toronto by suggesting such a thing and you owe them an apology.

BTW: Banking sick days to use in case if someone has a really serious illness such as cancer has nothing to do with this since once you are sick for more than 18 days in a year you qualify for long term disability benefits.

"Sick pay banking is not a reward, it is a finacial fall back."

If that's the case, then why should be people be given up to six months worth of pay in a lump sum for their unused sick days when they retire?? I pay home insurance very year - does that mean that if my house never burns down, i should have all my premiums refunded someday???

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

The civic workers have been working without a collective agreement since December 31.

 

The City is bargaining in bad faith, by demanding that the workers give up their existing right to bank sick days, before they will even discuss the other, more important issues, like job security and wages. The City hasn't even put a wage offer on the table.

 

The City is attempting to roll back contract benefits and language that CUPE has won in previous negotiations. The City has also presented 100 pages of concession demands to the City's 6,200 outside workers.

 

An employee's regular and continuous attendance at work is a benefit to the employer, and there is no reason in principle why the employer should not pay for it.

 

The sick days bank works like this: workers get 18 paid sick days per year. They can carry unused sick days over into following years. When they retire, the workers are entitled to payment in lieu for no more than half of their banked sick days, subject to a maximum that depends on their length of service. Thus, for example, a retiring worker with just under 15 years' service who has had a perfect attendance record and has banked 268 sick days, is only entitled to a maximum payment of 3 months.

 

Again, this is something the union has fought for and won previously, that the City now wants to take away, as a precondition for negotiating anything else. It is scandalous, though not surprising, that any babblers would support the City's position on this.

Stockholm

I agree with CUPE on many other issues, but I can't get my mind around the idea that you should get paid extra for not using your sick days. The benefit of not using your sick days is that you didn't get sick. I'm sure the people who used all their sick days because they were gravely ill would have happily NOT been sick and been able to work all those days. Sick days are for ILLNESS - they are not vacation days. I undertand that once a union has negotiated a benefit it will understandably be very reluctant to give it up and i'm sure that the CUPE negotiators are doing what they were elected and hired to do - but I'm just saying that its a very hard case to make to the public that the whole city is going to be held hostage with garbage piling up and daycares shut down - all so that people can retain the right to get paid tens of thousands of dollars extra for NOT having used their sick days. This is going to be a public relations catastrophe for CUPE and will set the cause of collective bargaining backwards and that is not something I like to see.

I was reading that the city wants to bring in a short-term disability program so that no one would ever need to "bank" sick days from year to year. Makes sense to me. Sick days should not have to banked to cover having to take two months off for open heart surgery - they should be for the occasional flu or case of food poisoning. If you have a serious illness that will require more than 18 days of sick leave, you should not need to rely on banked sick days from previous years. What if you don't have any???

I have probably taken a grand total of three days off for illness in the past ten years. Do I expect to get some sort of reward for that from my employer? No. I'm just glad that I don't get sick very often and that is enough of a reward to me thank you very much.

Sineed

Just because there's a precedent for banking sick days doesn't make it right.  There should be no financial reward for not calling in sick for the very salient reasons I gave in my first post.

To recap: it punishes people who really are too sick to work, and end up being paid less, and it encourages people to come to work with, say, viral infections, that they then spread.

Quote:
An employee's regular and continuous attendance at work is a benefit to the employer, and there is no reason in principle why the employer should not pay for it.

Merit pay???

Refuge Refuge's picture

When my mom was a teacher she had a few retirement options she could pick from as part of the negotiated union contracts for retirement. One option was to take all unpaid sick days and get a percentage of it when she retired. Another was to take a higher pension and I think there was also a third. It worked out to roughly the same amount of money if you did not take a lot of sick days in general but my mom choose this because she wanted to put it on her mortgage to pay off as much of it as she could before retiring. Unfortunately Harris came in and took out this option and wouldn't allow anyone who chose it to switch to another option without serious penelties so she got squat when she retired and the lower pension.

I can't speak for this case but it could be the same where they negotiated lower pensions for this bonus at the begining and the government is trying to screw them out of a portion of their pension.

Stockholm

This is exactly what I was afraid of. Read this article and tell me how you would go about rebutting what it says:

This is going to be a very very very hard strike to defend/communicate to people. I'd almost rather be trying to explain why executives of companies getting massive bailouts deserve multi-million dollar bonuses or why consultrants for e-health and right to make expense claims for chocolate bars - than to try to explain to people why the whole city should shut down for ther sake of people getting double pay for NOT being sick!

There is some garbage at the beginning about how because in the private sector people have poor benefits its unfair for unionized public sector workers to get good benefits. That part is crap, but then he makes some valid points.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/columnists/marcus-gee/union...

"So it only makes sense for Toronto to control its labour costs, which make up half of its $8.7-billion budget. Cities all over North America are doing it. The president of the Toronto Board of Trade, Carol Wilding, notes that mayors from Chicago to Los Angeles to New York are demanding concessions from city unions, imposing unpaid "furlough" days and laying off thousands of workers.

Nothing so draconian is being proposed by Toronto. The city insists it doesn't want to shed workers. In fact, it is hiring more than 1,000 new employees for transit and other services. What it does want to do is wind down the lavish and archaic sick-leave plan, which has burdened the city with an unfunded liability of about $250-million.

That hardly counts as a plot to "gut" the employees' contract or strip away "decent" working conditions. Most other Canadian municipalities long ago did away with this ludicrous bit of featherbedding, replacing it with a standard plan that covers workers when they are, well, sick. Hamilton did it in 1982, Etobicoke in 1996, York Region in 2000. Don't even talk about the private sector, where jaws fall open at the very idea that you could collect sick days like bubblegum cards and trade them in for valuable prizes.

Toronto itself switched its non-union staff to a standard sick-leave plan last year with no big fuss. Long-term employees got to keep their already banked sick days, cashable on retirement. Union employees would probably get a similar deal if they agreed to give up the sick-leave entitlement."

Doug

This might have been a strategic mistake by the union if this strike goes for very long. If the big issue next election becomes what to do about municipal workers who strike all the time CUPE may find itself facing a mayor and council that's much more interested in contracting-out than at present.

Doug

By comparison, this is what Globe and Mail employees will be striking over:

 

under the Globe's proposal 30% of the workforce would see a wage reduction, and pension benefits would be cut up to 50% for future retirees....Management had proposed a six-year-deal, which includes a total compounded salary increase of 7.2 per cent over six years.

It has also proposed one unpaid week off each year for all employees, a work day increase from 7 to 7.5 hours, with no extra pay for the half hour, overtime paid at straight time for the first half hour and changes to pensions.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/654201

 

Stockholm

so far I would say that I am about 100 times more sympathetic to the Globe and Mail workers if they strike - THOSE strike me very valid reasons to strike. Protecting the right to save up unused sick days like bubblegum cards so you can trade them in for prizes does NOT.

Cueball Cueball's picture

M. Spector wrote:

The City is bargaining in bad faith, by demanding that the workers give up their existing right to bank sick days, before they will even discuss the other, more important issues, like job security and wages. The City hasn't even put a wage offer on the table.

So you are saying that the city is trying to cram cuts in pay down the workers throats one issue at a time at the bargaining table, and using this issue as a leverage point to make the union look bad, rather than negotiating a complete package, that may or may not include concessions in other areas?

Forcing them to strike, in other words.

Unionist

Welcome to the usual suspects, lecturing the workers as to which of their existing benefits they should give up, because... ummm... just because.

Oh, and they shouldn't strike over this either, because they have so many other methods to use, like... ummm...

I think we should have a good healthy debate about every round of collective bargaining in the country, and get a babbler consensus as to which side is "right" and whose demands are justified. After all, who is better placed to decide that than we?

Cueball Cueball's picture

Covert maria-type threat talk from the peanut gallery even:

Doug wrote:

This might have been a strategic mistake by the union if this strike goes for very long. If the big issue next election becomes what to do about municipal workers who strike all the time CUPE may find itself facing a mayor and council that's much more interested in contracting-out than at present.

Stockholm

In every labour dispute, I look at the issues and I decide on an ad hoc basis which side seems to make the most sense. I would estimate that about 95% of the time, my sympathies are with labour - but its never going to be 100% of the time because I'm a rational person who believes in studying the issues and forming my own opinion. Even in this case, I'm not saying that I don't side with the union against the city overall - I'm just saying that I personally think that its ridiculous that people being able to save up unused "sick days" and get cash back for them. Its totally unfair to people whgo through no fault of their own have health issues and as a result use all their sick days and don't get this big windfall when they retire.

and Doug has a good point - the next mayor of Toronto will probably decide to save money the easy way - by simply cutting thousands of jobs - which is something that employers are free to do and which doesn't involve collective bargaining. Bon appetit!

Cueball Cueball's picture

But why are you arguing the view that the Union is being silly, when apparently the city has not offered a package, and is trying to cram concessions down the throat of the Union one issue at a time. It would seem to me that rather than playing along with Cities game you might try a different tack.

By the way where can I get the official copy of Mayor Millers talking points on this?

Caissa

Stockholm, under capitalism shouldn't our sympathies always be with labour?

Cueball Cueball's picture

Sympathies? Of course. But we are talking about money here.

Stockholm

We don't know the details of what exactly is offered and counter-offered. I'd like to see details about the issues to help me better understand what's going on. All I'm saying is that on the particular issue of so-called bankable sick days. I find it a ridiculous benefit. Why not just eliminate sick days altogether and instead give everyone an additional 18 days of paid vacation? Its basically the same thing.

I'm a stakeholder here as well. As a resident of Toronto, I pay the wages of the municipal workers and I want to believe that my money is well spent. There are lots of things i would happily pay HIGHER taxes for. I would happily pay for expanded child care. i would happily pay for never contracting out and even contracting in things that have already been contracted out. i will happily pay for more permanent full time jobs and less people on contract and part-time etc... I will also happily pay for raises that keep up with the inflation rate and for better pay equity and probably lots of other things. but there are also things that I do NOT consider to be a valid use of my money - such as paying people some gigantic windfall when they retire for the fact that they didn't use all their sick because they weren't sick. I'm also not sure about paying for raises that are beyond the rate of inflation at a time when the economy is shrinking and government revenues are plummeting - but i am open to being swayed as to why i should be willing to pay for that.

Stockholm

Caissa wrote:

Stockholm, under capitalism shouldn't our sympathies always be with labour?

But in this case its a conflict between labour and government - and a social democratic government elected with labour support to boot - the City of Toronto isn't Wall-Mart. Even if we had a totally socialist state and everyone was a state employee - there would still be potential labour disputes between labour and the one and only employer - so then we have to sit back and analyse the details and decide who is taking the more reasonable position.

Caissa

Marx is spinning in his grave.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Stockholm wrote:

We don't know the details of what exactly is offered and counter-offered. I'd like to see details about the issues to help me better understand what's going on. All I'm saying is that on the particular issue of so-called bankable sick days. I find it a ridiculous benefit. Why not just eliminate sick days altogether and instead give everyone an additional 18 days of paid vacation? Its basically the same thing.

You are right. It is absolutely a bizarre thing to get caught up on, and so why the city is sticking on it is hard to understand, because of course that is exactly how workers will treat it. One way or the other they will get those sick days, likely by pretending they are sick, and the City will still have to pay their wages, and the wages of the people they bring in to replace them when they are "sick".

This way, they can insure that people are sick, really are sick, except for the occassional "mental health day" and encourage workers not to play tricks on the system, and at the same time not waste managements time and energy filling in for workers who go missing, bringing in replacements and so on and so forth. It is really quite sensible.

It works, and its an efficient way of getting people to play the sytem honestly.That is why they don't just give them the money, unless of course your real intent is NOT to give them the money.

Stockholm

"One way or the other they will get those sick days, likely by pretending they are sick"

This is a slander against the good inside and outside workers of Toronto - implying that they would ever do something as illegal and unethical and pretending to be sick and thereby committing an act of fraud and theft. you should apologize to the workers for implying that they are all dishonest thieves.

Uncle John

Great time for a union to ask for more!

Michelle

By turning on CBC radio.  It's all I heard this morning, Miller's statement, CUPE's statement, etc.

I support the workers.  Thanks for clarifying what exactly those sick pay benefits are, M. Spector, since the mainstream media is also spinning them as some sort of crazy windfall at retirement where you get paid for every sick day you ever didn't take in your whole career or whatever.

Michelle

The union isn't asking for "more", Uncle John, they're just not giving in to management demands for huge concessions.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Stockholm wrote:

"One way or the other they will get those sick days, likely by pretending they are sick"

This is a slander against the good inside and outside workers of Toronto - implying that they would ever do something as illegal and unethical and pretending to be sick and thereby committing an act of fraud and theft. you should apologize to the workers for implying that they are all dishonest thieves.

Heh. Can't argue the point and suddenly you start getting all offended in defense of workers. Well ok. Might as well, since being offended in their name doesnt cost anything.

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
Thanks for clarifying what exactly those sick pay benefits are, M. Spector, since the mainstream media is also spinning them as some sort of crazy windfall at retirement where you get paid for every sick day you ever didn't take in your whole career or whatever.

 

Does it make more sense if you're only paid for half of them, or whatever?

 

Sick days aren't vacation days. They're for when you cannot work. Or at any rate, that's what they are to most people lucky enough to even have them.

remind remind's picture

Gigantic windfall? I hardly call 3 months maximum pay gigantic.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Yes, that's right so everything should be determined by the lowest common denominator. Instead of a minimum wage for hourly work, we should have a maximum hourly wage, just so.

Stockholm

Exactly, "sick days" are supposed to for when you are really and truly SICK they are not just paid vacation under another name. If someone can give me a rational argument for why people should get any payment whatsoever as a reward for not being sick - I'd like to hear it.

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
If someone can give me a rational argument for why people should get any payment whatsoever as a reward for not being sick - I'd like to hear it.

 

So far we've got "because the workers are dishonest theives who'll just fake sick days and take them anyway". Which is good to know.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Because it gives insentive to people not to cheat the system, and thus makes operations smoother for management. You know. Like having a lock on your door, even though we all know the idea that some people in Toronto steal would be an insult to the good people of Toronto.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Why shouldn't they steal them, since the city is being so craven as to try and reduce their wages?

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
Like having a lock on your door, even though we all know the idea that people in Toronto steal would be an insult to the good people of Toronto.

 

To be a good analogy, it would be more like leaving your wallet outside on your doorstep, "because people are going to steal it anyway", and it just saves so much time and hassle to hand it over.

Stockholm

Cueball wrote:

Why shouldn't they steal them, since the city is being so craven as to try and reduce their wages?

Who's talking about REDUCING wages? From what I've seen the union wants a raise that is above the rate of inflation, opposing that is not asking for a reduction, its just asking for no increase.

Uncle John

Garbage workers who work for WMI that has municipal contracts outside Toronto get $10 per hour (or did in 2006 when my buddy worked there). How much do City of Toronto garbage workers get? If it's any more than $10 per hour it seems like the taxpayers are not really getting value for money. Another buddy of mine who works for the Toronto Parks department said what they were paying him was "ridiculous, but what the hell". He figured if he didn't get the dough someone else would. Fair enough.

One does not wonder why businesses are not too keen to open up shop in the 416.

Stockholm

That's baloney"Uncle John". No one in Toronto can survive on $10/hour. I think that garbage men and women deserve a living wage just like everyone else and i don't begrudge them that at all.  Would you be willing to work for $10/hour to save money for your employer???

Uncle John

A single person can survive on $10 per hour quite easily. A room at $500, metropass at $109, still leaves enough left over to eat fairly well. Many are surviving on a lot less. Like ODSP at $1000 a month or OW at $570.

Jobs at any wage are hard to come by. Sympathy for those making $20/hr or more is not possible.

remind remind's picture

waste management eh?!

Nice to see that some support the mob's exploiting workers.

Stockholm

First of all many people aren't single and second of all - I'm not sure what sort of a message it sends when government would be paying its own workers what can only be described as starvation wages. How much does "Uncle John" make per year?

remind remind's picture

Well by Uncle John's standards then all politicians should be making 10 bucks per hour too, and so should everyone else.

Uncle John

Barely enough to survive on, if you really want to know. I am sure I could make more money if the business communities in this city were not forced to pay so much in taxes.

As a low-income earner, I know I cannot afford to support anyone else. So I don't. I've had to turn down opportunities to be in a relationship because of being poor, however it's no great loss.

$10 an hour is not starvation wages for a single person, unless you have some kind of alcohol or drug addiction.

If the city were to contract out to WMI I am sure the taxpayers would not object. Otherwise, the city could charge a profitable rate per bag of garbage left out, and make a profit on collecting garbage. If they can make a profit by paying high wages like the car companies, power to them.

Defending non-market wages is unsustainable, especially when a large number of us don't make enough money to support them.

WillC

Uncle John wrote:

 

. So I don't. I've had to turn down opportunities to be in a relationship because of being poor

You poor sad guy. I feel so sorry for you. I wouldn't want to live in a city or country which forced its workers to live lives of impoverished solitude, to save money for the corporations which are giving its CEO's million dollar golden handshakes. 

 

 

Stockholm

What a great idea, let's follow Uncle John's advice and just pay EVERYONE $10/hour! and let's watch the entire economy goes belly up as demdn for all consumer products collapses and the entire population is reduced to subsistence wages. I know this is an old cliche - but back in the 1920s someone asked Henry Ford why he didn't pay his workers the minimum wage and his answer was - "if i pay my workers the minimum wage, who is going to buy my cars?"

"Barely enough to survive on, if you really want to know. I am sure I could make more money if the business communities in this city were not forced to pay so much in taxes."

Maybe instead of bitching out of envy about the fact that some people make a decent wage - why don't you apply for a job with the City of Toronto and you will no longer "barely be able to survive"?

Uncle John

I'm not sad, thank you very much. As I said, it was no great loss.

Name me a city or a country that doesn't featherbed its privileged, and I might consider moving there.

However no such place exists, at least on this planet.

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