Thursday, July 16, 2009

By Request: Garbage Strike

My blog buddy Diane sent this one in to me:

"The garbage strike (Toronto, Windsor, or both - your choice): A righteous cause,
or just downright ridiculous? Discuss."

You know, I can’t say I know too much about the issues surrounding the City of Toronto strike that includes garbage collectors. People don’t tend to care too much about the details, just “what’s being done?” and so the media don’t often break it down into clear negotiation issues.

Yes, there’s the 18 sick days an year that can be banked. We’ve all heard about that. That’s the one issue that the media loves to talk about and the City likes to throw out as an unreasonable benefit "in these tough economic times".

Here’s the thing: unlike most people, I don’t have a problem with it. Not, at least, based on what I’ve heard. In a previous negotiation, the union secured a benefit whereby any unused sick days can be rolled over year after year in such a way that a person may actually “bank” sick days. When they retire, an employee may cash in unused sick days up to a max of six months’ pay.

What you get is workers not calling in sick on a whim or when they don’t feel like going to work – instead they show up. What’s wrong with that?

In companies where sick days DON’T roll over, the temptation is to use them all before year’s end – but, of course, that would look suspicious on an annual review and the employee would perhaps suffer the consequences. So what was the point of negotiating those sick days? Why would you negotiate sick days and NOT take them - since they're a fixed cost to the employer (you get paid the same whether you take them or not), aren't you just ripping yourself off by NOT taking them? Aren't you just working MORE than the employer expected for the salary they're paying you?

Hell yes you should use them.

Of course the EMPLOYER doesn't want you to. Nor should they.

You WANT people showing up. You WANT sickness to be unusual. If everyone’s worried about using up sick days, you end up with offices that always have a staff member or two absent. That’s not good production-wise. Companies shouldn’t have to have an extra staffer or temps to account for missing folk.

The problem is that the City should never have agreed to it in the first place. It was silly and now they can’t afford the back end payouts. But you can’t remove it now (unless you pay those folks out – even then you’d have issues ‘cause it’s supposed to be paid out at salary at retirement, not current salary).

What should be done is that the salaries should be slightly higher but NO sick days given. Don’t show up? Don’t get paid. That would keep people coming in. If they truly are sick, ok, they take a day or two. If the sickness is 3 days or more, you’d need a doctor’s note and you’d go on some kind of subsidized leave (NOT fully paid - why does the employer have to pay for your sick ass? You're not doign anything for them. Let the government take care of health care. If you ARE that valuable to an employer that they'd pay for your sick leave, then that should be because your're special not because you belong to a mob). Why do we need paid sick days? That sounds like some lazy fucker’s initiative.

Don’t get me started on the laziness of some union members…

The thing is, this strike has to end. The garbage is piling up in parks, for Pete’s sake (side note: why aren’t people dropping off their trash in the dumpsters behind apartment buildings instead of going to these transfer stations? Apartment buildings tend to have private companies remove their trash – I don’t even notice the garbage strike in my neighbourhood). But the real pain in the arse is the fact that daycares are closed, too (this isn’t just a garbage strike – it’s a City employee strike) which can REALLY mess up families and their daily routine. Things like that.

So the sides have to come together.

And the argument from the union that they want "what others got" is bullshit. You want what they have? Go work there. Your job is your job, their job is their job. If the job in Mississauga gets paid more than the job in Toronto, maybe that has something to do with the nature of the place where the job is performed.

Unions always want more than what they had before while employers want the strike to last long enough that they’ll be able to afford the concessions they’ll eventually give (why are we paying for these services that aren't being performed, btw?). That’s why unions should always work to rule before going on strike. They get paid while making their presence (or lack thereof) known to the public who will complain to the employer. That’s assuming, of course, that anyone notices that they weren’t just working to rule in the first place. With some lazy union fuckers, you never know.

So what do I think of the garbage strike? It's garbage, of course.

And tax payers are paying for it - literally and figuratively.


dicampbell said...

Well said, man.

This whole issue tears me up, because I'm a member of a union, but also because I'm a city resident who feels a bit like the city is taking other citizens - who use far more city services than myself - hostage by this.

I just hope this thing ends soon.

Michelle Sullivan said...

I'm in Montreal, so can't speak to the garbage strike, other than to pray it'll be over by the time I roll into T.O. next week.

I can agree with your reasoning on the principle of rolled over sick days, however. Well said.

When people cry foul over this issue, they forget that this is an incentive to ensure people do the honourable (Sullivan) thing and come to work. Unlike some people we know, not everyone is healthy enough to bank 5 years' worth of sick days ... some people do need _and should take_ time off when they're really sick, rather than contaminate their co-workers. Companies need to hire more workers so that they're not short staffed when their workers take a day off (because they're sick or otherwise). All this costs money. Money that might as well go into a rollover plan that will not only provide incentive to haul your ass into work on days when the sun is tempting you to do otherwise. Not only that, but the plan will also provide incentive for an employee to stay with a company until retirement (does anyone do that anymore?), saving said company ridiculous amounts in training costs.

And frankly, if an employee sticks it out with you until retirement, he friggin' deserves 6 months salary as a thank you, while he puts his feet up and enjoys the next chapter in his life. He'll not only have saved you additional costs (training etc) but your company will (likely) have benefitted from his years of expertise. Chances are, even if he hadn't banked his sick days, he would have saved you enough money to compensate for the parting gift.

PS said...

Did... did we just AGREE on something?


Michelle Sullivan said...

I was going to include a jab about that in my response, but changed my mind, figuring it was too catty ;P-

Yes, Philip, as astounding as it may appear sometimes, we were indeed born from the same parents.

Now please clean up your stinky city before I get there. I'm a delicate flower, as you know.