Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sometimes, Even Adults Need a Good Spanking

The largest city in Canada is enduring more labour unrest with it’s transit union. Though this time, things have turned ugly.

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has gone on strike. Nothing ugly about that – except that everyone had thought the issue had been resolved last week, and a labour walk out was averted.

Turns out, although the city and the union bosses came to an agreement, when the union boss presented the agreement to the over 9,000 members – they turned him down.

Yes – I did say him. As in the union’s president. The whole process of collective bargaining begins and ends with your union’s president. If the president is well respected, then the members will follow his lead – after all he’s looking out for you and your interests.

However, if the union president isn’t seen as a true representative of the union’s membership, then things go wrong.

And they did go very wrong last night – the TTC shut down all busses, streetcars and subways immediately at midnight – stranding thousands of unsuspecting people.

Originally, the union bosses said they’d give everyone 48-hours notice of a possible strike. But last night, they didn’t give even a second’s notice of warning – they just shut the whole system down.

I sympathize somewhat with the union bosses – they probably had no choice in the issue. Their members decided to walk immediately, and they had to follow. Problem is, because of union discontent within itself, they have lost faith in the public sphere.

Politicians are already working on laws to legislate the workers back to work, and they will then probably declare (finally!) the service an essential service, forever preventing future strikes. Those that rely on the TTC and are sick and tired of dealing with these labour disputes every three-years are understandably pissed off. And even those that don’t use the TTC are upset – they have to deal with the burden caused by more cars on the roads.

Though the real villain here is the union’s chief – the TTC’s union boss. He’s failed his union – obviously, they didn’t accept his offer – he’s failed his city, and worse, he’s failed to keep the peace between his union and those who depend on public transit for their daily lives.

From the beginning I never liked the union boss. At the start of the labour unrest, he always came off sounding like a dictator, ordering the city to give in to his ridiculous demands, or else he’ll tell his members to go on strike.

Throughout the negotiations, he has publicly humiliated himself, by acting like a child in desperate need of a spanking.

First he said he couldn’t work with one of the city’s negotiators, and requested by name a city councillor who happens to also be chair of the TTC, to replace him. Then he said the only person that could save the talks and prevent a strike would be the mayor of Toronto himself.

Most of us don’t get to choose who we work with – we don’t always make the hiring or firing decisions at the office, so whoever does what we need done, is it. Adults put personal differences aside, and get the job done, regardless of what we think of each other.

Perhaps the TTC’s union couldn’t stand working with their union boss any longer, and his childish temper tantrums? Perhaps the TTC union just said, f*ck this, we’re going on strike now – deal with it.

And now we all have to deal with it in Toronto. Those who depend on the TTC to get around have no means to go from point A to B. Those who drive, have to face longer traffic tie-ups, as more and more people use their own cars, instead of taking public transit. And those in desperate need of emergency services – like police, fire or ambulance – better start praying, because traffic tie-ups translate into longer travel times for everyone – including those that need to get to you immediately for life and death.

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