MAY 2005 NO BULL NEWSLETTER
Hi Folks! Sorry it has taken me so long to put an article in the newsletter. Lots of things have been going on in the Park and I kept getting sidetracked. I finally got an article together for February and our editor got sick and we cancelled the publication. So finally, here I am.
Just a quick update about some important issues. The health premium grievance that asks the employer to cover 100% of the Ontario Health Tax is being fought by Unions throughout Ontario and some of them have already been successful.
One of the things that has been driving me crazy has been the employers practice of excluding members from the bargaining unit. They seem to think they can slap a manager title on anyone and yank them out of the bargaining unit whenever they please. In reality, the Parks must inform the Union of their intent to exclude the position and the job description should also satisfy the criteria for exclusion. Many of the positions that have been removed fail to satisfy the criteria outlined and we are pushing OPSEU to fight this issue before the Parks excludes us all.
It may not seem like a big deal to some members, but it certainly will be in the event of a lockout or strike. It can also be an effective way of busting the Union. For those of you that may like the idea of being excluded, just remember that you lose the protection of the collective agreement and you may not like your job security. Leaving the bargaining unit also means losing the benefits of seniority in the bargaining unit, as some long time managers found out when their pink slips came through.
Health and Safety is a subject that is important to all of us workers. Unfortunately, since it can be expensive to ensure that our brothers and sisters go home safely each shift, it doesn't seem to be a priority with today's upper management. We finally have a safety officer to replace the much-missed Bill Poole. Her name is Laura Eggar. Things don't seem to be moving at any speed yet. We still have many concerns with the lack of training, safety certification and inspections that, we feel should have been a priority to deal with. I am trying to be patient with the new staff, but I am frustrated by the slow progress and the lack of any efforts on the employer's part to allow our worker members the right to participate in some of the policies and procedures being developed. There is no T in team, and apparently there is no Union either.
We must push to get back on track. Hopefully someone in Upper management will get their head out of the sand and show some commitment from the top that they care about the health and safety of all workers.
I must point out that we have only 17 months remaining on the current contract. I feel that we will be facing a very tough set of negotiations. When I discuss the last set of negotiations with the executive and negotiating team, most feel that the employer was neither honest, nor fair. In other words, you can trust them as far as you can throw them. It seemed a little ironic that the company that pleaded poverty all through negotiations started major renovations at Victoria Park Restaurant and proudly announced the multi-million dollar fiasco known as the Great Gorge Gondola just after the contract was finally ratified, just narrowly averting a strike.
I also feel that the increase in exclusions and the systematic raiding of the bargaining unit in favor of non-union staff is a form of Union busting and management is doing their best to weaken the local before the next set of negotiations. We must work together to fight this. Perhaps you should think of setting aside a little rainy day fund, like an insurance policy against bad management. By preparing early enough we will have the strength and ability to fight off unreasonable demands. Perhaps I am being pessimistic, but I for see some rainy days ahead, and I plan on being ready for them!
A few words from our Chief Steward
Convention 2005 is over and I would like to thank the members for electing to send me I find that I come home energized and excited to continue in our work. Just being around so many people who are so active in the Union can be inspiring and very informative.
This was election year for the Executive Board. It took two ballots to decide both the President and the First Vice-President/ Treasurer positions, hi the end; Both Leah Casselman and Smokey Thomas were returned to office. Chris Madill, who served us so well as the Region Two Vice-President retired from the Board. However, she continues to remain active in the Union. Chris was elected Region Two's member on the Provincial Womens Committee.
Closer to home, we mediated some of our outstanding grievances on April 1st with mixed results. The next round of mediation will be on May 16th, and we will try for good results for our members. Whatever happens, we will keep up the fight and continue to police our contract.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to call me at (905) 227-9082 and I will try to help, or look for me on the bus.
Yours in Solidarity,
Where are we headed?
Contract workers and excluded positions. It seems to be more and more the norm in the Niagara Parks Commission. Seems like every day another job is made excluded and we are seeing more and more jobs being posted as one year contract jobs. One year? I wonder.
There was a time, whenever there was any heavy construction done in the Parks, all of the prep work, necessary sodding and clean up was done by Park employees. Recently, on a drive through the Park, I watched crews from an outside landscape company cleaning up, preparing and sodding areas in Queen Victoria Park. It is very discouraging to see this knowing that many of our staff are still laid off due to what management calls 'a shortage of work'. I guess that means shortage of work for Park employees but not for contract workers.
This is magnified by a recent posting in the Niagara Falls Review by the Niagara Parks looking for contractors to maintain the Gateway Project lands that run along Roberts Street.
The ongoing push by management to have non-bargaining unit workers doing our bargaining unit work is being challenged with a policy grievance that is in its third stage waiting to be heard at the grievance settlement board (GSB)
Along with this, it is getting harder and harder to get the job done with less yellow helmets and more and more white helmets, with the white helmets knowing less about the jobs they are managing.
I think it may be necessary to take a more direct approach. We may have to take some sort of job action to get our point across.
Finally, as unfortunate as it sounds, it seems like, if your department does not produce a physical profit, it is left to fend for itself. Quality and service has been replaced by profit and loss.
Can You Canoe?
A Girl Guide troop challenged the management team of a big corporation to a canoe race to raise money for charity. Both teams practiced long and hard.
On the big day, the Girl Guides led throughout the race and won easily. The members of the corporate management team were very embarrassed. They decided to find out what was behind their crushing defeat.
A senior management team was formed to investigate and concluded the reason that they lost was because the Girl Guides had eight people paddling and one person steering, while their team had eight people steering and one person paddling.
The managers hired a consulting company and paid them a whole lot of money. The consulting company advised them that too many people were steering the canoe and not enough people were paddling.
To ensure a win the following year, the canoe team's management structure was totally reorganized. The team now had four Steering Supervisors, three Area Steering Superintendents and one Assistant Superintendent Steering Manager to oversee the one person paddling.
To get the paddler to work harder, they created a new incentive program with a performance system called "Rowing Team Quality First Program' If their team won, the paddler would get new paddles, dinner, a t-shirt and a free pen.
The Girl Guides won again. Humiliated the big corporation laid oft" the paddler for poor performance, halted the development of a new canoe, sold the paddles and cancelled all capital investment for new equipment.
The money saved was distributed to the senior executives as bonuses.
New Committees for Local 217
Sorry this wasn't published earlier folks but I was out of commission in February and could an edition of the No Bulletin out before our last meeting. By the way, we had a great turn out for February meeting and we hope this is a sign of things to come for future meetings. Seasonal Joint Job Evaluation
Barb Wilson, Paul Ecker, Ronnie Fawcett, Penny Berketa (alternate) Full time JJE Maintenance
Scan Leitch, Placido lammarino, Bill Rudd, Penny Berketa Human Rights
Bernie Villamil, Fernendo Fortino, Sue Longmuir Constitution Committee
lan Mather, Colin McKenzie, Shelley Reed, Colleen Cotter Compliment Review Committee
Bill Rudd, Paul Ecker, Mark Farquharson
Employee Relations Committee
Bill Rudd, lan Mather, Barb Wilson, Fred Hopkins
Things that make you go HMMMM.
Well, here I go again, picking on horticulture. I guess because I work in this department that I see first hand some of the logic-defying happenings in the park. I'd be more than happy to pick on any other department in the parks if someone would like to give me the facts. Maybe there might even be some tips from upper management to redirect some of the heat??
Times are tough; we have to do more with less. We need to think carefully on how we spend our money. We need to prioritize our responsibilities so we get the best bang for our buck. (After all, we don't actually generate any revenue in Horticulture, People travel from all over the world just to see our gift shops, they want to stroll down the aisles and even picnic there, but! digress)
Okay, that's fine, fiscal responsibility is a good thing... and then we got the first memo... You may remember one of my rants about John Dick being replaced by three managers while our front line workers were being let go. We scratched our heads and carried on; maybe it was just a glitch, or an anomaly. Then we got the second memo....Horticulture had been reorganized.
Senior management, in their wisdom and quest for efficiency have decided that we need more staff...Not on the front lines where we are really short and the quality and service is deteriorating, but in Upper Management, where some may say that the numbers are already bloated. Yes, believe it or not, we need to increase our productivity, so we add more management
I spoke to a couple other 'old timers' in the department. Going back about 20 years we used to have a Director, a Co-ordinator, 8 Section Foremen and 4 Lead hand/ Sub-foremen. Times changed and responsibilities changed and some retired. About 10 years ago our flow chart comprised of Director, Co-ordinator, 6 Foremen and 10 Lead hand/Sub-foremen. Staff was at, in most cases, an all time high. Then came 911, war, SARS, and a soaring loonie. Early layoffs and in some cases permanent layoffs reduced the Horticulture payroll significantly, some sections lost 40% of their workforce. After all, we had to be more efficient. Now we come to today.
Now in Horticulture the flow chart is bigger and more complex We have a Senior Director, a Superintendent, a Co-ordinator, 3 Managers, 6 Supervisors and 10 Sub-foremen/ Lead hands We also have a Superintendent at the School who crosses over into the 'park' flow chart to supervise the Greenhouse. All this after the workforce was severely chopped. If all the exclusions and downsizing continue, there will soon be more excluded managers than actual workers.
I assume all of these fancy new titles also come with a fancy new salary.
Perhaps I am stupid, or naive in the way of business sense, but I find it impossible to understand how these moves are cost efficient and in the best interest of the company or the visitors we serve. Perhaps someone can explain it to me?
Brothers and sisters, our local is under attack. First the Table Rock Currency exchange and Photo lab were contracted to outside companies. Those jobs once belonged to members of our Local. Management has been systematically taking jobs from our bargaining unit and arbitrarily designating them as excluded positions. When the Gateway project was announced, there was a big hoopla about the Parks maintaining the area. Great! More jobs for our workers. Sadly this is not the case as the Parks has placed an ad in the Review looking for a private contractor to take care of the gateway. Those guys you see busily laying sod at the base of Murray Hill are Stevensville Landscaping and not our workers, who have always done this job in the spring. What a slap in the face when we still have brothers and sisters on lay-off due to lack of work.
How long before it is your job or my job that goes the way of the private contractors? It is time to decide on some strategies and actions to protect our jobs. We must work together to stop the Parks blatant Union busting policies.
I have a spelling checker, it came with my PC. It plainly marks four my revue Mistakes il cannot sea. I've run this poem threw it, I'm sure your please too no, Its letter perfect in its' weigh, My checker tolled me sew.
Our Motto (Besides No Bull!)
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