Friday, July 31, 2009

What is Wellness Day? Live-Blogging Toronto Council Special Meeting

I am live-blogging at best superficially - after all, the chair has suggested adjourning at 7:30 pm!
The first thing to leap out (after the usual Millerbabble) in the city staff presentation is the comparison to other agreements, which apparently have invented a new holiday called Wellness Day. WTF? Looking at all these agreements I am rather shocked at the general commitment to about a 3% per year wage adjustment. Now that would not be so bad, given general productivity improvement over the years, but I am a bit skeptical, as these are union agreements, and unions will frequently do their best to prevent productivity improvement. That is, after all, in the interests of the leadership.
On second thought, this 3% is interesting. The Miller-man got himself elected on a promise of not raising city taxes more than inflation, a promise violated in every year of his mayoralty. So the 3% is an interesting number.
Sick leave banking - looks as if that is done next year. I guess what grandfathering there is simply does not get me too excited.
Councilors are asking good questions about how great the deal is in terms of reality, as opposed to the city's projections of tax increases. City manager fails to answer. Good question too about private sector agreements vebrsus public sector ones and how the city sets targets - very sad answer, as it is clear the city uses public sector agreements as its standard. Squeeze those taxpayers!
Wow - is the devil ever in the details! Question about part-time employees getting new dental benefits. False alarm! Question about mileage rates for indoor workers. Hmm, but what the heck are they getting paid for? Hmm and the city sets the rate at the max that Revenue Canada does not care about.
Minnan-Wong asks the toughest question - having to do with contracting in. This is what created this disaster - and Bussin rules that it cannot be discussed in public. That is VERY serious. And it seems not to have caused a gasp.
Minnan-Wong presses - is there an agreement to build a committee to discuss contracting in? City answer - not for local 416. They finally have to reveal there is one for Local 79. Minnan-Wong presses. Bussin shuts him down. I'd vote for him for mayor.
Minnan-Wong - are we giving out overtime this weekend? Obviously we are - and I agree we should, but I understand his political point.
Karen Stintz asks an obscure question, also relegated to secrecy, why I do not know.
She presses on some details of sick leave banking, that are of course outrageous, but nits. On the other hand, I am concluding I would vote for her too as mayor, and might even work on her campaign!
Somewhere someone is barbecuing and the smell is killing me.
A heck of a good question, not sure who is asking - much as we were outraged by sick leave banking, it was designed to keep people coming to work. What now? No real answers, except for saying it is a management responsibility. Poor managers! They have to enforce all the dickheaded ideas invented by negotiators who do not have to enforce them. Amusing question - why not simply not pay people for days they take off as sick? No real answer.
More questions from tough Councilors (Nunziata, Ootes)- all interesting ones relegated to secrecy. This is becoming f***ing ridiculous. How did we design a local government this appalling?
Ootes presses on contracting out. It seems the agreement restricts this, which is in my mind a tragedy. Bussin shuts the discussion down. Very disturbing. Contracting out is exactly what the city needs and should never shut down in a contract!
Now back to waste of time on the sick leave bank - it's a nit. But it is also egregious, so I understand the emphasis from politicians, but back door deals to not contract services out are far more important, and apparently too much so to be exposed to the citizens and taxpayers of the city. Yuuccchhh.
Councilor Hall wants it clear the Etobicoke will not be tossed into dependence on union garbage collection. City says there is no change. Should I move to Etobicoke?
Interesting question - not sure from whom - during the strike employees earn sick leave credits and vacation credits. What a wacky world? This is so far from the romantic period if union activity it is hard to believe.
Councilor Cho asks a good question - why not look at private sector wage agreements too? And he gets an utterly wacky response - roughly, the city has to compare to comparable jobs and those are all in the public sector. This is a nice convenient answer to justify self-justifying behavior, but it surely lacks in reality. Can this crazy meeting fix this one problem? It would be nice but I doubt it. ( A small, no, large point here - the people answering the questions here are also public employees and probably do not want comparisons of their salaries with those in the private sector either. The level of somewhat implicit corruption is almost unbounded here.)
Miller says he is saving 140 Million dollars and waves some paper around. Yup - and Obama has created thousands of jobs. And appliances are 30% off at the local store. Thanks, Mr. Millerbabble.
Lunch break till 2. Now well past 2. Council about as useful as its employees at times.
2:10 People wandering about randomly. What an outfit! I assume Bussin, the chair, is the prime determinant of this attitude. She could certainly simply start on time without everyone else in place and embarrass them, Naturally she is a strong Miller ally.
Amusingly, the screen on the local Rogers Cable station proudly announces that closed captioning is provided by Rogers Wireless. I have seen NO hint of closed captioning.
2:15 Still no chair. What sort of clown show is this?
Aha - the microphone came on for a second. This sets a truly fine example of preofessionalism and commitment to efficiency.
And now it is - ooppss - not quite on seriously. OK just now. What a joke.
Stintz asks a question and Miller says he won't answer because he knows she is a 'No' vote. Man, is he ever a professional. Her question is simple - did the city proposal that Miller published on the web site include the current sick leave grandfathering? No answer.
She asks whether garbage fees will be raised next year. No answer.
Next - will non-union staff (who got a pay freeze) get Family Day?
Miller says he will not answer her questions because she is voting No.
How did we elect this arrogant narcissist twice? (I voted for him only the first badly misguided time.)
Stintz' questions hit a very tricky point. The city froze the pay of the non-union staff who are clearly the people that have kept the city going over the last month. Incredible.
Rob Ford follows on the same point.
Minnan-Wong goes after some documents saying union members will be protected from civil proceedings for damages they have done. Mill argues this is to protect those who crossed picket lines.
Minnan-Wong suggests that Council might reject the deal and employees might not go back on strike, as Miller insists they would. Miller says they would. Minnan-Wong has been using Miller's claim that the unions backed down as evidence they could back down further.
Miller says we are all proud of locals 416 and 79 and count on them. Not so sure of that now!
Case Ootes tangles with Miller and loses.
Question: Do we go into camera? There were staff questions not answered. Must they be answered in camera.
Aarrgghh. This is appalling. Seems they go in camera.
They are back. Minnan-Wong - "Miller's words are the last bags of garbage". Let me know how you feel! I wonder what it would take to get a councilor this ferocious in my ward. A lot of people moving out!
Rob Ford will vote no. He spins the sick days - I still think this is silly. Though he does point out that the result we have is nutty, if minor. "The average person out there ... got a zero percent increase ... would love to have a city job". I love Rob Ford's constantly annoying behavior. Wow - Ford had 23 e-mails between 8 and 10 am and 21 said vote no. This is getting interesting.
Great! A councilor (Lee) wants the secret gorp publicized!
Pam McConnell rants incoherently. Roughly paraphrased, "Miller is a saint". I agree with her on the specifics of the sick pay gorp. Apparently we are trying to get back to an island. She testifies that one Customs Officer wants her to vote yes. Wonder what his/her partner does!
We're into posturing phase (each councilor gets to make a statement), so I suspect I may report only the odd item. I will watch for my own councilor.
Pantalone - will vote yes.
Mihevc - rambling. Dismisses the anger of his constituents. Wants "Zen-centredness"! Aargghh. Basically - we can do no better - let's cave! (It is hilarious watching Mark Grimes behind Mihevc as he speaks.) He is a clear yes, and a bit of a joke.
Stintz!! Echoes Mihevc. She really is a lot cuter than I realized (none of the men I mentioned above seemed at all cute to me). Stintz emphasizes the freeze on non-union positions and on an initial sick day position. She sees that our team failed. I wish she would run in my ward!
Stintz' speech is really good and cuts to the core of the stupid relationship the city has had with its unions. And she is really smart pegging on Mihevc's speech. She will vote no. If she runs for anything, I think I might volunteer to help!
Nunziata is sarcastic - it is a great win for the unions. Today's deal is the March deal? Why the strike? Miller goofed us.
OK now I am getting a point I missed. Long-term employees can continue to bank sick days as before - well, that is silly! I grant that this does phase out the program, but surely in a pretty silly way.
Frances will clearly vote no.
Now we have John Parker, who seems right out of Noel Coward play. His main emphasis - again, the highly and rightly praised non-union staff of the city. He makes a VERY good point. Public sentiment was entirely against the unions during this strike. Miller and cronies let the union more or less prevail.
Parker's speech started out weakly but sure seems strong now.
Doug Holyday explains why Etobicoke remains a sensible place. A big part of sensible is contracting out. This is so obvious to me I do not get the opposition at all.
Suzan Hall worries, I think sensibly, that we could be sent into arbitration and this could get worse for the city. She is articulate and I disagree with her.
I am feeling very good about the quality of the people who sit on Council and this day has been very valuable from that point of view.
Ootes praises the non-union staff - it is so easy to forget them!
He now digs into Miller. It is clear they hate one another and I think Ootes is right. "This is a sellout package." I think I could work for Case Ootes too.
Shelley Carroll has a sort of Kate Gosselin hairstyle. Where the heck is her speech going?
Why are so many sensible people in wards that are close neighbors of mine and I am stuck with Janet Davis?! Well, so maybe she ain't so sane. Though she has one good point - arbitration is REALLY bad.
In the end, whatever she votes, Shelley Caroll seems to be a fool of a sort.
No plan to work for her!
Mike Del Grande says he got abused by unionistas. Nasties fly around!
His case is great - against all crap.
Michael Thompson is very eloquent but I am retiring now. Till Tomorrow!
UPDATE: The agreement passed. I am now preparingfor garbage pickup on Tuesday!


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