Archive for the ‘ Politics ’ Category

I have long held the opinion for that the union is being screwed over in the present Moncton Transit dispute and I have also long been accused of my position being based solely on the fact that my father is a driver.

After many such accusations I thought it would perhaps be interesting to put a lot of these accusations to rest.

Most of you will not understand the long standing ongoing disagreements that have existed between my father and myself over my politics, and in all honesty the municipal election was the first time to the best of my knowledge that my father has actually considered voting for me. His vote was not because he managed to convince me to follow his thought process but instead that for once we found an issue that we agreed on politically (an extremely rare event, just ask my mother)

In fact to understand how willing my father is to let his differences in opinion from mine be known, you only have to look at my previous blog post, where he clearly questions my position that both sides should put the buses back on the road and hammer out a deal without the lockout or a strike affecting citizens to create a distraction and inconvenience the public

To understand the significance of my decision to support the drivers for the most part in this dispute you must understand a couple of things. The first is that as a general rule I am not a union supporter, in fact I find they are over the top.

The second thing that needs to be understood is that I have an IQ that generally tests between 130 and 143. For simplicity sake I generally accept the 130 as the more accurate of the two numbers, however that number alone is sufficient to put me in the top 2% this is something I have always been basically aware of since high school and something that for the most part I tend not to be over concerned with this except when people ignore my thoughts in favour of allowing emotions to get in the way of facts.

To get to my position I looked closely at the situation as it was playing out, I watched the actions of both sides as well as looked at as much detail as I could gather on both sides and realized that it was quite clear right from the start that someone was out to screw over the union, whether it was city council, city staff, the negotiator or someone else entirely I have not been able to determine simply because I am missing one or two facts. But to me the fact that it is the intent is completely clear.

I am giving up two positions that I want simply by the fact that I am holding this opinion.

I have applied for a position as a driver and I have indicated in the past (including to some members of council) that I want the position of GM when John Allain retires (supposedly at some point this year).

Because of my positions and how strong I support the Union and given that both of these positions are filled through HR for the city, the chances of me getting either of these positions have been directly affected by my position.

It is highly unlikely that I will even be considered for either of these spots given my position, and the reality is that it has likely completely eliminated me from contention for either position.

However I have taken this position knowing full well what the consequences of my actions will be and accepting them willingly simply because to me the overall point is black and white. The city has no interest in settling with the union unless it is at a significant loss to the drivers.

I will not say the drivers are perfect, they have made some mistakes during these negotiations, and they have not bent in their demands anymore then the city has. However of the two sets of demands I can see no point at which the city has offered a deal that is closer to the center instead they have maintained the same position even though they have consistently packaged it as a new deal.

Here are some facts that seem to get overlooked often.

  1. The original handshake deal would cost the public no more then they are paying now (this is something I have repeatedly pointed out that the mayor said when the deal was vetoed, often saying it in his presence and not once has he attempted to tell me, or anyone else, that I was wrong.
  2. The latest offer by the union would have cost the city half a million dollars a year less then the city was previously paying (a fact repeatedly stated by the union and not once denied by the council or the mayor)
  3. The union has been under a lockout position for so long that it will be impossible for them to make up the lost income over the length of the contract meaning that this is not an issue of money but of principle.

After 2 years of talks and the longest work disruption in Canadian transit history, the ATU chose to pull the offered concession off the table recently.

Now to be fair prior to this there was a “handshake deal” that was subsequently voted down by council and an “offer” that was withdrawn by the council as well. In fact at one point the council was offering 3.5% increases per year while recent discussions have all revolved around 2.5% or less.

The real truth in this tale is that it should come as no surprise that the union did pull the concessions offered. But even farther then that in my mind it is a great thing.

Over recent months, even preceding the lockout, the talks have been getting increasingly contentious and with the lockout, they are getting even more contentious and even citizens are getting involved (on both sides and even neutrally).

I believe the proof that shows how far we have fallen was the fact that for the past three council sessions there has been a police presence just outside council chambers and that last council session they were even inside to escort a union leader and a disabled presenter from the chambers. While they were told by the mayor not to remove them, and it appears that they may not have. The fact that they were even inside the council chambers (or that it was believed they might be needed) shows just how contentious this issue has become.

This means that in my mind there needs to be a complete change in direction in these talks.

  1. Buses need to be returned to the roads with a guarantee that by both the union and the city that they will not be removed again before the end of the next contract.
  2.  Both sides need to take a 2 month breather to allow tempers to cool.
  3. Start the discussion fresh with no use of prior discussions as starting points.
  4. Look at other contracts signed by the city, what cost savings per employee was gained by those contracts. This is the accepted cost savings per employee that can reasonably be expected from ATU.
  5. After the 2 month breather/cooling off period negotiate at minimum once per week and preferably at least 2 days per week.

We have no choice but to start over as it has become quite clear that the union and the city are nowhere near the same page.

We need to be reasonable and have serious intent to settle and that can only be done if there is not the threat of the passengers stranded to interfere with the discussions.

The present course by both the union and the city are of no value to the city or the citizens who live here and the fact that we as a city have no transit is going to rapidly turn this city into the butt of everyone else’s joke. We can do better than what we have seen and it is high time that we start to demonstrate that.


Where Are The Jobs? Where Are The Employees?

So it seems NB is faced with a double barreled problem.

It seems that Employers can’t find workers with the skills they need to do the job.

It seems there are not enough jobs to go around because our unemployment numbers are still rising.

So what is the problem?

The issue is all over the place, employers are looking for people to fill the vacancies being left by retiring workers, while many sit at home unemployed.

The real problem is that the skills that many in this province have do not meet the skills that these employers need.

The changes need to be radical.

  1. As a population we need to realize that our traditional skills are no longer useful and we have to be willing to accept retraining. In fact we need to embrace this retraining.
  2. As employers we need to realize that no longer can we expect people to walk into a job fully trained. We need to accept that on the job training is the new reality.
  3. As a province we need to do what we can to make this transition as painless as possible.

Adults can not afford to retrain. This is really from a financial perspective more then anything else. Many have children and a family to feed and can not afford the time off work to get schooling to get the requisite skills. And because of this same situation they also can not afford the bills that many of us saddle ourselves with while we are younger.

In all honesty there are a few things that needs to change to make employment more feasible.

We need to make it easier for people to leave unemployment and social assistance to find jobs. This means that the jobs that are available will pay better then they receive on these programs and a transition program that will allow them to transition to their new jobs without putting themselves in a financial bind (anyone who has ever moved from one job to another will understand what I mean)

We need to make it easier for people to get the skills they need. Encouraging companies to train workers for their trades instead of insisting on university degrees or certifications (in fields where this is possible ie: trades, manufacturing, management etc.)

As a province we need to start to shift from rewarding companies for new hires (rewarding short term hires and high turnover rates) and instead start rewarding companies for improving retention of employees, rewarding companies for employees that have stayed with the company for 5, 10,15,20 etc years.

Over time we as a province and as a people have become set in our ways, Many of us took up the same job our parents, grand parents etc have done through the years, while those of us who did successfully find work outside these traditional fields found that many of the companies were focused on high turnover, low wage jobs.

Now a generation is starting to retire, a generation that held many of the stable long term jobs and we as a people do not have the skills to fill these positions. We need to not only retrain our existing workers, but also change the way the province treats companies and workers.

We need to create a system that makes it easy to retrain a workforce, makes it easy to get the skills needed for a job and that encourages companies to train employees as much as possible and to retain them for extended periods of time.


Setting Out To Improve Bilingualism

So today Kris Austin stood on the lawn of the legislature and suggested that now is the time to look at bilingualism and see what we can do to improve the way it is done in New Brunswick

So the question is how do we make changes and how do we make sure that the people of this province are behind us.

We Talk. We talk to each other, We talk to our friends and We Talk publicly.

We need to know and understand what each and every New Brunswicker wants, needs and expects out of the language legislation for this province.

With a population that is easily 1/3 French there is no question that Bilingualism has to play a significant part in this equation. The question is what part does it play and how should it be implemented.

Bilingualism was introduced into this province with the intent of creating a fair and equal province for everyone, this was done because at the time French people were not getting service in their language and had trouble getting work in govt as well.

The problem was created when the Ideal of Bilingualism, which was to create a fair and equal playing field for all, was instead dumbed down to “make things easier for hiring”

Instead of making sure that there were French people hired, and French people were able to get served in their language, what was instead done was that it was determined that rather then try to get the proper mix of French and English workers they would just start insisting that everyone have both languages. From this came an even more bastardized idea that well maybe we should have one system for French and one system for English.

There is one problem with this plan. Many decades after segregation was put to bed we decided that for some reason it was ideal to put another version of segregation in place. This time we would take our french and our english hospitals and students.

While I have an element of understanding in trying to bring up our students in their formative years understanding their own culture and language, I feel we are perhaps limiting our children by not allowing them the chance to learn both languages properly right from an early age.  (We are one of the only countries that actually teach only two languages as it is)

In our health care system it is even more interesting. We originally started with an English and a French healthcare system. This was then for some obscure reason changed to a Bilingual and French system. The immediate outcry from that resulted in us having two Bilingual systems, each with a different administrative language.

There is no reason why we can not have one system with an administration that operates in both languages. There is also no reason why a Uni lingual Franco or Anglo staff could not operate in any of these facilities simply because there would obviously be sufficient staff that one of the other staff at minimum could speak the second language.

We as a family are completely english and yet however have CHOSEN to go to the french hospital (which is slightly farther away) because our son’s doctor has priviledges there and because we instantly found a difference in attitudes and personality when we walked through the door.

Surprisingly enough the French hospital is a much friendlier place where in the english hospital we always felt like we were on edge at all times. I Chose to use the French system because I felt it was superior and I feel that by merging the two systems and creating an environment where all staff are allowed to speak their language of choice, not worry about their jobs because of their language and where quality of work and experience count for more then what language you speak, then just perhaps we might create not only a more cooperative healthcare system but one that is capable of providing a far superior level of care then our present two divided systems allows.

We as a province need to realize that we have two populations, we need to work together not at cross purposes to each other and that is best achieved when we work in a system where your language is not what determines your qualifications but your ability and your education does.

We need a system where it is simple to get service in your own language, if not from the person directly in front of  you, then from another staff member who is working in that department or area.

We need a system where we unite together to drive our province  forward not split and fight and sink our province while we fight over the spoils.

So another two weeks later and back to a city council meeting.

I was no happier with the results tonight then last meeting though in all honesty I felt that perhaps we may have approached them with a lot more aggression tonight because of the way we were treated last time.

What did not change was the way we were treated. They have still not understood that while we stood by and gave them 8 weeks to solve this problem, we are no longer at 10 weeks going to be willing to stand by and continue to let them put peoples livlihood at risk because of egos.

It was also pointed out to them that what ever was asked of the front-line workers should also be expected of the drivers  (if there is a cost savings reduction from the workers then there needs to be a comparable cost savings reduction from management)

What has become increasingly apparent over the past few weeks of watching this ongoing battle of wills is that there is unlikely to be any movement on either side without a good solid bit of motivation, and since talking does not seem to be doing the job then it is going to require action.

Basically while looking at various options It has become apparent that the only way we are going to get any form of movement is by seeking a court order forcing the return of transit service to the streets of Moncton. It is quite obvious that there is no other tactic by users that will get the attention of either the city or the union in a strong enough manner to get their attention.

If they continue to keep on bickering past a back to work court order then the only option left will be to seek essential service designation through the courts (the Alward Government has made it quite clear they are not about to get involved and care little about the needs of the individual, and those Liberals who bothered to respond were at best non committal in their support)

While it is not the solution that many of us would prefer (a negotiated settlement) and it is almost guaranteed to upset both the union and the city, I truly feel that neither side truly understands exactly what the citizens of this city mean when we say do what it takes to make sure this service returns to full capacity as soon as possible.