The debate goes on at City Hall. At some point today, the Council will finally vote for the deal (I suspect, see my post yesterday), and the strike will end, and life will return to normal. The media will stop calling us labour law professors, alas. Hey, who knew my subjects (labour law and industrial relations) would become the sexiest topic at university!
What do you think about all this public anger at the so-called sick day provision in the CUPE collective agreements?
Firstly, I don’t see the sick bank provision as some unprecedented benefit, as it is being described in the papers. I see it as simply a form of a golden parachute of the sort that is not at all uncommon in the private sector for management types, with the benefit that this parachute actually includes a built in incentive for workers to maintain a good attendance record. The workers get a pay-out at the end of their careers that is larger if they have had a good attendance record over the years. That is why the employer agreed to it in the first place–to improve attendance. If an employee misses work often, their golden parachute gets smaller. Lots of private sector golden parachutes given to executives and management folk aren’t even tied to performance, and are for much, much, much higher amounts then that given to the CUPE workers.
Just do a google search of “golden parachutes”, and read all sorts of stories about huge bucks being paid out to employees when they retire or leave the companies. For example, here’s one about the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the ex-head of the a B.C. Olympic committee , and here’s a goody about the ousted CEO of General Motors, who received $8.2 million, plus a guaranteed $74,000 annual payment for life, and a story here about the payouts to Quebec politicians when they quit their jobs, and this week there was a story about the payout of 140 million EUROs to the departing CEO of Porsche, and here’s a nice list of bank executives who recently received millions of dollars after leaving the banks (sometimes due to their dismal performance), and… well, I could go on and on, but you get the point.
Getting a payout when you leave your job is not that uncommon. Perhaps you want to argue that all of these end-of-job payouts should be made illegal. Fine, then ban them for everyone (although I think that such a law would be difficult to enforce in practice). But what policy rational can you come up with to justify an argument that only non-managerial, unionized public sector employees should be disqualified from bargaining that sort of arrangement?
Perhaps what people are angry about is that they don’t have that sort of benefit in their employment contract. I know I don’t. Fair enough. But we can try to bargain one if we want. Nothing is stopping us from trying to bargain our own ‘banked sick day” provision that would reward us for good attendance. Who knows, maybe your employer will think it’s a good idea if attendance is poor at your workplace.
I also have to confess to some confusion at the idea that this provision is “Miller’s fault” or that “MIller caved” by not getting it completely removed in this round of bargaining. That provision has been there for decades, and not one other Mayor ever tried to get rid of it. So how is it that Miller is ‘in the back pocket of the union’ by bargaining a phase out of the plan when no other Mayor came close to doing that? Mel Lastman didn’t accomplish that, so why isn’t he the sell-out to the union? Do you think Miller would have been ‘better off’ by not even raising the issue of the sick days in bargaining like all the previous Mayors? One thing seems clear–if he hadn’t tried to bargain it out, the Toronto public would still probably not even know it was there, and the media wouldn’t be talking about.