Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Gondola was only one of many projects

For now the Gondola is on the shelf, click on the link to see what else the NPC has in mind.

http://www.niagarathisweek.com/na/news/story/2162642p-2505622c.html




Monday, August 30, 2004

Niagara This Week

From: Ian

To: Niagara This Week

Sent: Friday, July 16, 2004 4:53 PM

Subject: For love of the park

After several months of waiting residents of Niagara were finally able to speak their mind face to face with the Niagara Parks Commission.

The Parks knew they were going to be ducking arrows at the recent public meetings they conducted to explain why the grass wasn't being cut. Meetings that were scheduled after the parks was inundated with phone calls, e-mails and articles in the local news papers, from both residents that live along the 56 km parkway and residents that live in Niagara Falls and the surrounding region.

Regeneration, Buffer zones, Bad weather and the lack of budgets were the main reasons given by the NPC for the long grass.

Even after a presentation by both the NPC and the Niagara Conservation Authority most in attendance were not impressed with the NPC's project. Most were upset that the NPC had neglected to inform residents especially those who live along the Parkway of the plan.

A very rainy May and budget cuts are two of the reasons the NPC gave for areas that aren't apart of the regeneration project. But those two reasons were not widely accepted by those who attended the meetings.

During the meetings it was very noticeable that the NPC was taken by surprise by how much the residents love THEIR Park.

Even with the NPC saying they are doing what they can to catch up residents asked why wasn't the NPC hiring more people and getting more equipment to take care of the grounds and to spend money where it's needed getting the park back in shape instead of spending it on new projects such as the Gondola.

It was great to hear the people in attendance speaking out about what truly is a beautiful stretch of parkland and without a doubt the flagship of Ontario Tourism.

Regeneration along the parkway will take some time to catch on and in the long term it will help along the shorelines. Information and notification certainly would have helped the NPC to make this project more acceptable. Hopefully they will keep this in mind for future projects.

I would like to thank everyone that attended the meetings and expressed the need to get the park back into shape as a whole. Even though the meetings were to discuss the long grass residents expressed concern about the entire operation.

I hope the NPC will take what they heard in these meetings to the table and continue from this point on to include both the residents and its staff on future projects.

Ian Mather

Niagara Falls

Gondola letter

Mr. John Kernahan, General Manager

Mr. Jim Williams, Chairman

June 23, 2004

Gentlemen,

THE NIAGARA PARKS COMMISSION SHOULD BE FINANCIALLY SELF SUPPORTING.

AS FAR AS POSSIBLE THE NIAGARA PARKS COMMISSION SHOULD BE FREE TO THE PUBLIC. These are the founding principles of The Niagara Parks Commission.

During the unveiling and information session for the new Gondola ride there was plenty of information presented about how the NPC is self-supporting and how the NPC does not receive any outside funding. However, I did not hear anything about the second principle, and after speaking with others that attended our meeting and others that attended other meetings, no one could recall any mention of it. I did read it in your June 22 NEWSLINE but it is somewhat disturbing that so much emphasis was put on the first principle and little or none on the second principle. Is it possible the Niagara Parks Commission is moving away from the second principle?

“Moving Forward
”, is necessary for growth, and I believe it is necessary to spend money to make money.
However there is one element that must be considered before any endeavor is to be put forth, and that element is timing. I’m sure you have all heard the term “timing is everything”, and that is very true especially when it applies to large financial projects.

I would like to step back for a moment, back to October 2001. A meeting was called and the majority of the Commission’s employees attended. The meeting took place at the new maintenance center and it was regarding the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
We were told drastic cut backs were necessary because of the economic impact of this attack in the park. Major lay-offs were announced and cut backs to projects took place. A week later the staff still very upset with the announcement of the early and extensive lay-offs was invited to attend a tour of Legends on the Niagara Golf course and Club House. On the day of the tour People movers full of employees arrived at The Legends on the Niagara location passing by the on going work around the Club House being done by Stevensville Lawn care/nurseries and Montgomery Brothers. I think this could certainly be considered bad timing both with the tour and the exposure to workers doing work that could have been done by our own employees that had just found out they were being laid off.

On June 22, 2004 the announcement of a Gondola-type attraction that will cost in the area of 23-million dollars running between Table Rock and The Maid of the Mist Complex may also be listed in the “Bad Timing” category.

After a very tough 2003 season due to several factors the Niagara Parks Commission found it necessary to make some drastic changes in its staffing and operations.

From just after Labour Day 2003 every employee in the park was concerned about his or her job and with good reason. Some jobs were made redundant, other full-time jobs were made seasonal, and some full timers found it necessary to use vacation time to get their full 40- hours-per-week. Seasonals were laid off even earlier and called back later, or not called back at all. New equipment and vehicles were put on hold. Morale was at an all time low.

Mixed in with all of this was the negotiation of a new contract between the unionized employees and the Commission. The employees kept hearing the same comments from the Commission, “We have had a bad couple of years and we can not afford to give anymore than what we have offered.”

On May 26, 2004 the unionized employees of the Niagara Parks Commission voted in a new contract. At any time during the negotiations was the 23-million dollar Gondola attraction presented to the union or its negotiating team? The fall-out from the new contract is not even a month old and the announcement that the Commission is borrowing 23-million dollars is presented to its staff. [Bad timing?]

Mr. Williams said, “Employees are important to the park.” It is very hard to get excited about this new attraction knowing that staffing has been cut so deep that full-time jobs in the following departments: Roads, Horticulture, Welding, Masons and Paint/Sign, and probably a few more that I am not aware of have not been filled.
Along with these cutbacks are examples of such limited staffing that seasonal workers are being scheduled to work in two or more sections at a time, e.g., QVP Horticulture staff working part of their shifts in Queenston Heights Park.

It would almost appear that adequate staffing levels, general maintenance, and overall park appearance are now considered liabilities.

With the addition of paid parking in both Kingsbridge Park and the School of Horticulture, the fee to use the picnic pavilions both in Queenston Heights Park and Kingsbridge Park and the transfer of a staff parking lot at the old maintenance center to a paid parking lot for visitors.
Along with the removal of picnic tables in several areas of the park especially in the falls parking lot. I wonder if this is to discourage visitors from picnicking in the park? Or even returning to the park. I’m sure it also encourages a faster turnaround in the parking lots when visitors realize it may not be as comfortable to picnic with out any picnic facilities. These types of changes indicate that the Commission may be putting too much emphasis on the bottom line.
Are other large parking and picnic areas such as Dufferin Islands and Queenston Heights on the way to paid parking.

Mr. Kernahan was very excited about the fact that The Commission will be consolidating its 13-million dollar debt with the 23-million dollar loan for the Gondola and that, “It will be like a mortgage, we will be able to pay it off over a 20 year period”. Mr. Kernahan did mention that no financial support will be drawn from other sources to help pay for this new attraction, “It will be completely self sufficient, all the income that is generated from the Gondola will go directly back into the loan.” I guess the only real difference between your mortgage and my mortgage is, if things do go bad you can draw the money from other sources such as the laying off of staff or the shutting down of attractions; if I can’t make a payment I lose my house.


According to the Niagara Parks Commission none of the restructuring of staff, equipment, maintenance and appearance in the park over the past three years had anything to do with the construction of the golf course. Mr. Kernahan made this point first and foremost during the announcement of the Gondola attraction. However it is somewhat hard to accept as the golf course was under construction when the terrorist attack occurred on September 11, 2001. This attack put a severe strain on income to the Niagara Parks Commission and had to have some impact on all the budgets in the park.

During the Gondola announcement, Mr. Kernahan mentioned that Legends on the Niagara golf complex cost 30-million dollars to build. According to documentation submitted to Niagara Falls Economic Developments the budget was 12-million for the golf course, and 3.3-million for the clubhouse. For a total of 15.3-million dollars. <> If in fact there was a 14.7 million dollar difference in the budgeting of the golf course, I should think that one of two things has to happen: The term of the loan has to be increased so that the income from the course can meet the financial obligation of the loan, or financial support must come from other sources. I have included the documentation from the Niagara Falls Economic website for reference.

I only present this point as a reminder that it’s very hard to recover from an economic breakdown such as 9/11, SARS, etc.

“Due to the very poor 2003 season our 6 million dollar debt has risen to 13 million dollars”,
John Kernahan. When asked about the possibility of another economic crisis Mr. Kernahan replied, “We can never predict the possibility of such things” that is very true, but since we have been through two economic down turns in the past three years you would think that some sort of financial plan would be in place in case this were to happen again as opposed to hoping it won’t happen again.

Mr. Kernahan, Mr. Williams,

I would like to conclude by finishing where I started. Moving forward is a good thing but I hope that this isn’t too much to fast. I still believe it would have been better to clear the 13-million dollar debt and be in a more stable financial position before moving on.

Gentlemen,

I hope you can look at this objectively; this is more a concern than a criticism.


You asked us for our input, this is mine.


Thank you.

Ian Mather

___________

Friday, August 27, 2004

Steward's List

NAME LOCATION PH. NUMBER

Randy Aird, Section 3 Horticulture, 354-8081
Rob Atkin, Maintenance Centre, 905-871-8078
Bill Rudd Maintenance Centre, 905 658-5305
Penny Berketa, QVP, 905-353-8834
Gary Bird, 905-871-4062
Desiree Constanitinides, QVP
Glen Davis, Whirlpool Golf & Restaurant, 905-680-0829
Paul Ecker, Queenston Section 1,2, 905-356-9917
Fernando Fortino, Queenston, 905-354-6492
Dennis Harris, Kingsbridge Park, 905-295-1459
Fred Hopkins, People Mover (Rapidsview), 905-994-1113
Placido Iammarino, School of Horticulture, 905-374-6054
Ed Ketcheson, Section 3, 905-374-0796
Darlene Johnston(DJ), People Mover (Rapidsview), 905-894-0708
Andrew Lacosse, Fort Erie, 905-356-4539
Ian Mather, Waste/Recycling, 905-356-3967
Alan Newstater, Queenston Restaurant, 905-984-8821
Shelly Reed, Victoria Park Complex, 905-871-8078
Jenn Sanderson, Maid of the Mist, 905-937-6103
Anita Simonetti, Table Rock Restaurant, 905-356-9418
Marie Stokes, Greenhouse, 905-357-4219
Bernard Villamil, Payroll, 905-374-1097
Barb Wilson, People Mover, (Rapidsvieew), 905-227-9082
Robin Watson, Oaks Garden, 904-354-6700
Steve Burton,QVP, 905-371-9309

Other points from our August meeting

-Bring issues to the union even if they don't affect you directly.
-It was announced that Local 217 has a Webpage now. It is in its infancy but it will be updated regularly. It should be a good way to get information to our member's on events that affect our union..
-Ian Mather spoke about the meeting that he and Bill Rudd had with John Kernahan and Dave Morris.
-We have to try to get the separation between seasonals and full time employees closed, because their isn't really anymore full time jobs. Anybody that is full time can be laid off. We are all in the same boat.
-Marie Stokes presented the finacial report .
-Unused money from the union executive (WSIB health and safety position) should be used to for educational purposes.
-Sue Longmuir and Sue Stoll were voted in. as trustees.
-Negotiating team to meet with Mark Kotanen(regional Rep.) and management on Sept. 8th to go over the new contract and to hopefully get it signed into place.
-Concerns about when the member's that paid into the seasonal benefit package will get their rebate cheque. A date should be set after the contract is finalized.
-"We have to police our own contract if we don't, they're never gonna live up to it", Barb Wilson
-It was mentioned that maybe we could have Kim Craitor attend a membership meeting.
-It was mentioned that the Gondola is not at this point a go, but that the Parks may be involved in a Monorail project.
-Political and public pressure on the Commission could help us.
-It was mentioned that we should consider a a dues levy in our own local to create a internal strike fund. It is believed that if a strike situation arises the Commission will not allow negotiations to carry on into the prime tourist season. Pressure will probably begin shortly after negotiations begin on a new contract which takes place for the most part during the "off season".
-It was stressed that we need to get trained health and safety officers in place and to fill vacancies in the areas that are not covered.
- Concerns about the locations that staff members have to park for their shifts. A large portion of our staff are required to park at Rapidsview and be shuttled to their locations. In some cases staff can't even get on the busses because they are already full. We need a dedicated staff shuttle sevice. Something that needs to be discussed during an E.R.C. meeting.

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Some words from our President, general membership meeting, AUG.26,2004

-Bill Rudd spoke of the strength of our union when we turned down the contract and how we need to keep that solidarity going. If we can keep the union strong it will help during our next contract and help us to get more........."We have to look out for one another"
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Bill Rudd talked about the amount of excluded positions. Seems to be policy that management fails to report to the union when they exclude a position. "It's straight union busting as far as I'm concerned."It's happening all over the place. We are going to try to get these people back into the union. If management wants people excluded they have to negotiate that. It's something we'll have to deal with during the next negotiations.
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Bill Rudd also spoke about the number of employees that are working over 24 hours per week that are not in the union. Management is hiring a number of people to do the same job and only giving each employee 24 hours a week. "If they work 25 hours in one week they should have seniority." If anyone on a 24 hour a week schedule works over their 24 hours they need to tell the union so we can work to get them into the union.
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Bill Rudd Talked about job cuts and how the Commission hasn't replaced jobs in several departments. Who does management think is going to do the work?


Thursday, August 26, 2004

CONTACTING OPSEU's REGIONAL OFFICE

2285 Hiway 20 East
Fonthill, ON
L0S 1E6
Ph. (905) 892-5729
Toll Free:(From Area Code 416, 905, 519) 1-800-263-7306
Fax: (905) 892-7662

E-mail Niagara@opseu.org

OPSEU's Official Website:
www.opseu.org/

General Membership Meeting

We have a general membership meeting on August 26, 2004.
We will be introducing the new executive. The executive will be giving the membership some ideas on how they are going to approach the employer regarding current and upcoming issues.

Our Executive

President:Bill Rudd 905-382-1958/905-658-5305
Vice President:
Ian Mather 905-356-3967 if busy call 905-351-4155
Chief Steward:
Barb Wilson 905-227-9082
Secretary:
Fred Hopkins 905-994-1113
Treasurer:
Marie Stokes 905-357-4219