January 16: City Counter-Offers, Calls Union Wage Freeze a “Ploy”
As expected, the City negotiators reject the union’s offer of a three year wage freeze. Oddly, the Chair of the employer’s bargaining committee, Doug Holyday, tells the media that that offer–which would prevent a work stoppage and save the employer tens of millions of dollars–is just a “ploy”! Seriously, these people need to grow up. Holyday counteroffers with a “modest lump sum payment” and a concession: the complete removal of the no contracting out clause is taken off the table in part. The City says it would agree to keep the job security clause in tact for workers with 25 years or more service. So we have movement. The City has blinked. I noted earlier on in this Anatomy that one direction the bargaining may end up going is bargaining over the seniority cut-off for the job security language. The first volley in that direction has now be served.
The old language protects “permanent employees” from layoffs caused by contracting out of their jobs. To refresh our memory, here is the language:
No permanent employee with ten (10) years of seniority shall lose his employment as a result of contracting out or privatization. Employees affected as a result of contracting out shall have access to the Redeployment provisions of Article 28 and the Layoff and Recall provisions of Article 29…
The City confirms that during the term of this Collective Agreement and any extension by law, there shall be no new contracting out of work of the Local 416 bargaining unit resulting directly or indirectly in the layoff or loss of employment of permanent employees.
I had assumed that read as a whole, what this section says is that a permanent employee is someone with 10 years or more service, and that such a person cannot lose their job due to a contracting out. However, people with less than 10 years’ service can be laid off due to a contracting out. If the second paragraph prevents contracting out that will cause a layoff of any worker, even those with less than 10 years’ service, then what would be the point of the reference to people with “10 years’ seniority” in the first paragraph. If that interpretation is correct, then the City’s offer amounts to a change from protecting workers from layoff who have 10 years’ service or more, to protecting only those that have 25 years’ service or more.
But it seems that is not the correct interpretation, at least according to some people I’ve heard from. Apparently, “permanent worker” in the second paragraph means any indefinite term employee (not a contract or temp worker). But I don’t know for sure. It doesn’t matter really, given that the employers’ position is that anyone with less than 25 years’ service could be terminated if their job is contracted out.
Remember that under our system, no collective agreement can come into force until a majority of the covered workers have voted for it (ratified). The employer’s offer would asks the employees to vote for their own termination, with the exception only of workers with more than 25 years seniority. Why would any rational person vote for that outcome? Consider now how you would respond if you were the union. Do you have a counter-offer to throw back on the table?
More on this tomorrow.