30 August 2008

update on impending strike

It's hard to know just what is going on over here. The Union/Management negotiations are supposed to be behind closed doors and secret, which is the perfect atmosphere for starting rumours, and each rumour is worse than the last. Some say we may be on strike Tuesday, others say a strike must be voted on first. The other unions where I work say they are with us. It's hard to say.

Secrecy does us no good. We listen to any rumour for months, and are only told the 'truth' ten minutes before we are to vote on our course of action. This is hardly an ideal democracy.

For what it's worth, many of the rumours are variations on a theme. The negotiations- to put it bluntly- are not going well, and perhaps are not going on at all. The most succinct statement of that came from a friend whose information is usually accurate. He seems to have good sources. His story goes like this: The first lawyer representing management walked out of a meeting a quit, for reasons not quite clear. (This is common knowledge- the union officially informed us of as much. Personally, I don't blame the lawyer- talking to the union can be an incredibly frustrating experience.) Management got a second lawyer, this one an American with little or no knowledge of Canadian Labour Law. This too is common knowledge. What my friend adds is what happened at the next negotiation meeting.

The new lawyer walked into the room, and said little. He picked up the piece of paper holding the unions demands and threw it in the garbage. He then picked up the paper which listed our benefits and crossed out half of them. "Here's your new deal," he said, tossing the paper back to the union reps. Then he walked out.

I wish I could say I understand what is happening. I wish I knew what management was up to. It's possible this was just posturing. The union's problem is that their strategy is too simple: we have only one real weapon to use, the strike. We know that. We will also be striking right at the beginning of the school year, thus adding a tsunami of chaos to the usual pandemonium of September. Management knows that and therefore, if they are smart in any way, they will be prepared for that possibility. In short, Management knows what the union will most likely do. I don't know anyone who knows what management will do. This is a lousy position from which to start a fight. Sun tzu's famous dictum is in play: "Know thy enemy and know thyself, and thou shalt not know peril in a thousand battles." We better fit his second, lesser known line: "If you know yourself but not your enemy, you will sometimes win and sometimes lose." I just hope we don't fall into the third line of Sun tzu: "If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you shall always be defeated."

For myself, I have nothing but a bunch of no-option options. I don't want this strike, but I can't scab either. I live too close, and there are just enough yahoos in the union to make this dangerous for my family.

Right now, my hope is on one last rumour: that arbitration has already been called.

How did I let things get this bad?

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