LETTER: Resident offers a proposal to council/union
Nov 25., 2014
Dear Mayor Chernoff and Council,
This Open Letter proposes a human-to-human way to break the labour dispute impasse that — to put it mildly — is negatively affecting all our citizens in a number of ways, and not just in practical terms.
How about all councillors get together with all of the City’s striking CUPE workers, behind closed doors, not to negotiate anything but to give Council the opportunity to hear directly from them? For council to ask questions, to delve to the the roots of their deep underlying concerns and frustrations and their wishes for resolution, heart-to-heart, which the formal bargaining process doesn’t achieve.
The fact that these workers have voted to strike, with the associated severe drop in income just before Christmas of all times, illustrates that the recommendations the City describes in its “Mediator Recommendations (at a glance)” publication as being “To improve grievance handling and labour relations”, does not alleviate the workers’ fears or concerns.
Taking heart in Your Worship’s statement at the election forum, that the City is 50% responsible for there being no contract yet, my hope is that Council would go for this ‘outside-the-box’ opportunity for real communication and an eventual productive outcome.
I would suggest, in the interests of truly open communications, that both parties agree beforehand to not ask questions that could be used by their side as bargaining “chips”, and perhaps that the union even agree to not ask any questions of council. If these were agreed upon, there would be no need for management to be present at the meeting, as councillors would not be in need of advice from staff.
Considering that labour relations is the core of the current impasse, the mere presence of any managers or the City’s Bargaining Team members at the meeting would in my opinion inflame the situation and get in the way of the workers communicating with council without rancour. Also, given that Management is implicitly in a position of power over workers, their presence at such a meeting is likely to result in guardedness. Workers would naturally be reluctant to be open and forthcoming. Likewise, in the interests of open communications, I suggest that the media not be present at the meeting.
My hope for outcomes is that either Council — with this deeper understanding — would then go back to our CAO and the City’s bargaining team with a recommendation to move from its we-will-not-budge-from-our-final-offer stand, or that at the very least the workers know that council’s decisions are made after a full hearing of their voices.
The fact that the workers are continuing to hold the line in the cold and wet, knowing full well that the strike is depriving their own families and friends of services, facilities, and the kind of Christmas they no doubt wish to provide them, is surely evidence that the formal negotiation process and communications about it to Council, and written statements, are obviously missing something.
To borrow from the wording of grievances, which end with, “and I ask that I may be made whole”, I ask that Castlegar Council seriously consider this proposal, so that not only our City administration and its workers but ALL of our citizens can again be made Whole.