The City of Toronto should lockout their own employees while its cold,unless they completely cave and grant the employer everything on its very long list of concessions. The City should tell employees they will be locked out for a very long time. An army of replacement workers should be retained and trained immediately. Fire any locked out worker who impedes anyone on a picket line beyond handing out a leaflet. And most of all, for God’s sake, the City should retain the biggest hard-ass labour lawyer it can find and not the softies that public sector employers usually take advice from. That lawyer should be paid loads of taxpayer dollars to run back and forth to court (“early and often”) arguing for injunctions every time a picketer gets in the way of anyone… Here’s my contact information.
That is the message of Toronto labour lawyer Howard Levitt in his National Post column this week. We heard the same advice from Levitt during the last City of Toronto work stoppage in his entertaining, ongoing attempts to drum up work through his National Post columns.
Do you think Levitt’s aggressive labour relations strategy is a good way to run a business, or public services?
Levitt is certainly right about one thing. Most public sector (indeed, most private sector) employers do not adopt this nasty, hardball approach to dealing with their employees. It is not difficult to see why. Collective bargaining isn’t like negotiations for a car. The employer and the employees need to live together in a relationship of relative trust for the foreseeable future. Levitt is calling for employers to kick their employees in the teeth, to harness all the forces of law against the employees whenever possible, and to not back down until the employees’ have completely caved with nary a thread of dignity left.
Many labour relations experts believe that while the Levitt approach may win the employer short-term concessions, the benefits from this will be more than offset by a loss of goodwill, cooperation, morale, and trust in the employment relationship going forward. My HRM colleagues tell me that the most productive workers are those who enjoy coming to work, who buy into the employer’s vision of the job, and who feel respected by the employer and supervisors.
If productive workers are respected workers, do you think that Levitt’s aggressive kick-the-workers-in-the-teeth strategy will contribute to a more productive workforce?
Is there something about public sector workers that renders that basic principle of HRM philosophy irrelevant, so that Levitt’s kick-em-in-the-teeth strategy actually becomes good HRM policy? Is HRM itself irrelevant in this debate?
Do you support the aggressive roadmap for public sector bargaining that Levitt sets out in his article?
Levitt’s strategy would depend on the public supporting a long lockout of city workers, in order to break the workers’ resolve. But the public had very little tolerance for the work stoppage 2 years ago. Most wanted back to work legislation [including, by the way, then Councillor Rob Ford. Get ready for another great flip-flop by Mayor Ford, who no doubt will be leading the charge this time against back to work legislation]
Would you support a long lockout of public service workers by the City of Toronto? If the City does lockout its workers, would you support back to work legislation?
So many questions. But this drama will unfold in slow motion over the months to come, so stay tuned.