The city of Moncton would have people believe that the entire Codiac Transpo contract dispute is entirely over wages and that the drivers are asking for to much.
The city is lying by omission. While wages are a major sticking point what is not being talked about is the rest of the contract as well as the side issues that are also relevant.
Due to the recent contract signing by other city workers, the offer the city is presently making would put bus drivers as the lowest paid city employee. Because of the skill and responsibility involved this is not acceptable.
The drivers union put forward a contract offer that was approved by negotiators. That deal which is the one that is under major contention requested what at first blush looks like a lot of money. And when you look at just the salary it would be.
What the city is neglecting to discuss is why a comment that the Mayor made recently is so telling regarding the offer. George Leblanc was quoted in the media as saying that the offer by the union was a “break even offer” and he said that this was not good enough. This issue takes us to two majorly different points both in favour of the drivers.
Firstly and of major importance. In my recent memory the only times a union accepts a contract that does not include improvements in both pay and benefits is when the company involved is in dire risk of going bankrupt. Case in point here would be the big three automakers who got major concessions during a major restructuring. Moncton is not at risk of going bankrupt.
Secondly is why would a contract with what is perceived as such a massive pay raise be considered a “break even contract” This could only happen if there was an equal DROP in benefits. This is what has happened.
To give you an idea just how much of a concession has been made I will try to give you some details.
- Bus drivers used to get an extra week vacation for booking off peak. This is now gone.
- Senior drivers were offered overtime first and then junior drivers were given what was left available. New contract allows junior drivers to get their 40 hours first before senior drivers start overtime (in very general terms exact language I am uncertain of) This drastically cuts down on overtime. (when was the last time a union gave junior members first crack at extra hours willingly)
- Many of these benefits the union has fought 30 years to gain and are now allowing to be given up just for the benefit of their junior drivers and to offset the higher salary.
In my opinion the city has slacked off on several items over their term. They have let the province do almost anything they want within the city without standing up and saying that they must work within the municipal plan set forth by the city. They signed a contract for other city workers that was far in excess of what they wanted to pay.
Now they have an election coming and they have to look like they are doing something right so they decide that they are going to play hardball with a union that is in all honesty doing them a huge favour. They are doing this to appear like they are in control of the situation and they are doing this to try to boost their reputation before the election comes because in all honesty I feel many of them believe they could be at risk in this coming election.
I honestly believe that the city is going to attempt to lock the drivers out for not signing a contract and I expect they will try it before the election in an attempt to show that they are willing to go to the wall.
I will give you one final bit of information. In the city’s latest contract offer to the union, they kept the large majority of the concessions the union made in an effort to get the larger salary but offered a salary significantly less. If they intend on getting a deal signed that does not include the higher salary then the city is going to have to return all of the concessions the union made.
Personally I believe the city is making a serious mistake not signing the original contract that was negotiated on and agreed to. I believe that when the public finds out the whole truth they will be extremely unhappy with the city for keeping this labour unrest going as long as it has. I also believe that if the media ever shows the unions side in full detail that the city will find itself with extremely hard feelings not only by the drivers but also by the public because once the public finds out, the city will lose most of the support they have.