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Why Unions Blow Chunks

11-Dec-08 11:02 pm EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

If you’ve read my politically-inspired ramblings hereabouts, you’ve probably gathered my politics aren’t what you call “right-wing” or Conservative.  I think Harper’s politically acerbic, socially insensitive and ignorant of far too much for someone with his responsibilities – a view that many on the left side of the political spectrum would tend to share.  But that isn’t to say I’ve been the hugest fan of Jack Layton or even Stéphane Dion, although I think he did a better job than many in the media give him credit for.  But, until recently it would have been very hard for me to bring myself to vote for anyone in the NDP and although this is thanks to Harper, historically I’ve been more sympathetic to the Conservatives than anything the NDP stood for.  And for the first time in a long while, an event has occurred to illustrate this point: the OC Transpo strike.

As I understand it, bus drivers, mechanics and other personnel who serve the city’s transit service – called OC Transpo – walked off the job earlier this week due to, according to the union, a dispute over scheduling control.  For the past three years, bus drivers who can earn up to $70,000 / yr. have enjoyed the privilege of picking their own shifts with 1st selection going to those with greatest seniority.  This naturally led to a complicated scheduling scheme that was both difficult to manage and costly, and was blamed for numerous spending inefficiencies that had some of the best-paid drivers supposedly lounging about with little or nothing to do for hours yet leaving the system short of drivers for certain shifts.  Despite attempts to negotiate with the union for over 7 months, the union wouldn’t budge and decided to cause, in the words of the union local’s president “maximum disruption” just as the holiday season is at its busiest.

Add do this:

  • picket lines downtown during afternoon rush hour that turn virtually all of downtown Ottawa (where I live) into a giant parking lot,
  • a coordinated effort by the union to exclude a large segment of the eliible voting membership from participating in the election,
  • threatened pickets on transitways and a refusal to allow other traffic on the transitways during the labour dispute,
  • purposeful disruption of the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships which were supposed to be allowed to have shuttle busses using the transitway to ferry teams from hotels in downtown Ottawa to Scotia Bank Place – the arena on the far west end of the city where the tournament is held
    • with 20% more vehicle traffic on Ottawa streets due to the strike and such major traffic congestion, travel between hotels and the arena are now totally impractical threatening the event as a whole – the largest sporting event Ottawa has ever seen,

The union is also demanding a 5 –7% wage hike for its membership even though employees are already paid more than 24% more than equivalent positions in the private sector – this during the worst economic crisis the city has seen since the Great Depression and following years of property tax hikes averaging 6% annually.

The strike has left me almost completely stranded, of course.  Thanks to my unfailing “good” luck, my car up and decided to experience mechanical problems on Friday of last week – right before the strike and I’ve been unable to get it back on the road as of yet.  Although I’ve been working on restoring it to operation feverishly this week, in all likelihood it will be next week before I’ve got it running again.  I must visit a pharmacy for treatment daily and a clinic once a week for monitoring of a medical condition – alone this costs a $30 – $50 cab ride depending on the severity of downtown congestion.  It’s about the same for me to transit to work by cab under ideal circumstances – and that’s if I can actually find a cab.  As one might expect all cab companies are reporting pretty consistent 1 – 2 hour delays in dispatches.

And I’m not as badly off as some – thank God I’m not a senior citizen who lives in a suburb somewhere unable to drive or I’d simply end up a shut-in, as many now have thanks to the incompetence of city management coupled with the insensitive power-hungry union.  I can’t, for the life of me, imagine how the union expects to come out of this strike on top.  After today’s spectacle downtown blocking traffic for hours in every direction, the public is almost ready to crucify the transit local and plant the union president’s head atop the thin metal spike extending above the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.

I’ve also been fortunate in that I work in a field where it’s possible to work from home at least, saving me from bankruptcy (at least for a short while).  Amazingly, no negotiations are planned and both sides appear more or less dug in for a long, protracted battle.  Right before Christmas no less!  I mean, I realize these overpaid bus drivers probably have stock portfolios that would make an investment banker blush, but you’d think it’s got to be at least a little uncomfortable for them to pull this kind of nonsense right before Christmas….

Either way, it’s going to be a long time before this city forgives union president Scrooge and his henchmen for this outrage.  Hopefully, Santa leaves every member of that union’s management a big lump of coal in the stocking this year!

UPDATE (11:51 PM EST, 11-Dec-2008)

And now looks like unions are behind this latest calamity – the defeat of the auto industry bailout package in the United States Senate!

Get ready for a rough ride on the markets tomorrow – but hopefully not too rough a ride; the economy’s already in the tank and there’s nowhere else for it to sink but completely down the drain….

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Categories: News and politics
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Terry Glavin

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