Was about to write a long one about how the city should not let scheduling slip into a separate negotiation, or let the union back to work without sorting this out, but it seems that Randall Denley did it for me.
Exactly what he said. The bus strike is a humungous pain in the ass, sure, but don’t flinch now for god’s sake. If you don’t fix this now you will be doomed to be here again very soon. One bus strike will be remembered as a pain in the butt in a year’s time, but a series of bus strikes as you try to fix this scheduling problem over and over will be called terrible labour management on the city’s part. Also, if the union wins on the scheduling issue, the inevitable tax increase will be ever more bitter to swallow for regular folks in the city. $30 million in savings is worth a few more weeks, and I think we all agree that nigh on two months worth of strike pay will no doubt make anyone more agreeable, even “The Inconveniencer” will have a hard time ignoring his members increasing cries to agree to any deal that lets them get back to work.
Then we will see how quickly the public gets back on the bus.
Well as the days without bus service grind past without an end in sight, it seems that the city is rebooting the entire discussion with the union and is proposing that a third party investigator be hired to “fact find” both sides of the scheduling issue. Of course the union hasn’t agreed to this yet, but since it’s probably on the city’s dime I’m thinking that “The Inconveniencer” will probably agree. Although agreeing on anything really isn’t his style, it does seem that he isn’t completely bereft of sense and agreed to let the city hire some replacement ParaTranspo workers. It’s really the only reasonable thing the union has done to date, but it should have happened weeks ago.
On at least one cheery note, Clive Doucet must have received a sturdy whipping from city council for publicly breaking ranks and saying that Mayor Larry was handling the strike badly. That remark alone probably cost us at least another two weeks of strike time, as it probably only served to stiffen the union’s resolve. Still it seems that he apologized for those remarks today with his tail between his legs. Mess with the bull, you get the horns, or something like that.
So, we all will survive a bit longer without bus service I suppose. The longer this goes the more likely I won’t really need a bus soon. I’m hoping to be riding my bike to work as soon as the spring hits, and at this rate it’s even odds which comes first at this point; spring or the end of the transit strike.
I have been spending some time on the Ottawa Citizen bus strike site, reading the articles about the strike vote today. What’s most interesting are the comments left here by regular folks. There is hardly any support for the drivers, which is maybe not that surprising, but there is tons of direct support for the city council and mayor.
The comments can best be summarized as follows:
- The strikers would be smart to accept the offer, they have a good job and this is a recession after all.
- Most commenters expressed hope that the city would stand firm and out-wait the union because while the strike is bad, the consequences of giving in are likely increased taxes, and the drastic reduction in the city’s ability to negotiate reasonable contracts with other unions. Even lots of people who think the mayor is a jerk still support the city’s position.
- The strike is severely affecting low-income earners who most fervently hope for a quick end to it all, whatever the method.
- Deep resentment towards the bus drivers who are seen as greedy, short-sighted, and selfish. Many commenters are swearing off public transit for good, refusing to be “held hostage again”. That’s not good for the city or the bus drivers, for sure. If this sentiment takes hold, those drivers will be out of work anyway since there won’t be any demand.
It’s rather inspiring really, because while some people are clearly hurting, public support for the city is very strong. I’m morbidly certain that the union is going to reject the offer today, against all better judgment.
I think it’s going to be a long strike, and if we are in it for the long haul, we might as well beat the union down and take back the scheduling. There’s no reason to go this long and then give in, as far as I can see.
It sucks to be a bus driver, that much is sure. Even if they do accept the offer, their salary increases have probably been largely negated from the last 4 weeks on strike. It will take them a long time to recoup the loss, I think.
**Update: It seems they have rejected the offer, and now my friends things will get even weirder.
It seems incredible that it has taken more than three weeks for the union executive to take the city’s offer to a vote, but there you go. It only took direct action from the federal government to happen, but I will take it. Despite the union leaders pleading with their members to reject the offer, I can’t help but think if I was in their shoes I would accept anything to get back to work. It seems that they have finally started receiving strike pay, and it sure isn’t much ($50/week apparently). In their shoes, this offer surely has to be looking better and better, it would to me anyway.
I heard Larry O’Brien on the radio this morning, Live 88.5, and his take on the city’s argument about the scheduling issue was brilliant. He basically boiled it all down to a public safety issue: if the city controls the schedules, then there’s no way a senior driver could choose to be “driving a 10 ton bus for 22 hours straight on city streets”. That may not be an exact quote, I was driving to work at the time, cue the irony. This clear and direct media message is in stark contrast to Andre Cornellier’s catastrophic series of media appearances at the beginning of the strike. It seems he has been banned from making any public appearances since then, which was really the only wise thing the union has done to date.
So, Thursday should be interesting, that’s the day of the vote on the city’s offer. Have the union members had enough of Andre’s shtick? Time will tell.