Some advice for the premier on Dalton Days
By Michael Decter – Chief Negotiator of the 1993 Ontario Social Contract.
Tue Nov 10 2009
Premier Dalton McGuinty has mused recently about adopting some aspects of the Rae government’s Social Contract. Much has changed since 1993, when Premier Bob Rae’s administration faced a massive deficit and decided to try and negotiate a new deal with the public sector unions. Yet many important realities have not changed.
What is the same?
The public sector unions, despite all that has befallen them, are still seized of a rhetoric and mindset that abhors compromise. If the CAW had behaved as CUPE and other public sector unions behave – make no concessions ever – then there would be no GM, Chrysler or Ford jobs left in Canada. Private sector unions, albeit reluctantly, have absorbed the difficult realities of a global economy and the limited ability of employers to pass price increases along to customers. The public sector unions still cling to the view that governments are outside the economy and can simply raise taxes to meet wage demands that exceed government revenues. The other ongoing reality is that there are still strong collective agreements – thousands of them that provide security and pay increases to the unionized part of the broader public sector. There are also tens of thousands of public sector workers who toil for low wages in child care and in a myriad of community agencies. They have no such protection. If the alternative to an organized reduction in public sector pay is to simply enact budget cuts then the reality will be thousands of job losses among the most vulnerable workers while public servants, teachers, nurses and other professionals receive wage increases. This will not seem fair to the people of Ontario. When we go through tough economic times, it is fair that the burden be borne as broadly as possible.
This reality propelled the Rae government to the Social Contract and is clearly motivating McGuinty to consider at least some aspects of the same policy approach.
What is different?
The problem is smaller. Although a forecast deficit of $24 billion seems at first glance larger than the deficit of $17 billion that Rae faced, the current Ontario economy is more than double the size of the economy of 1993. Interest rates are far lower, so the cost of financing public debt is less. Fewer jobs have been lost in the Ontario economy this time than in the 1990s recession. And a 2007 Supreme Court decision in a B.C. case provides limited constitutional protection to contracts achieved through collective bargaining.
McGuinty appealed to and received support from nurses and teachers when he won two back-to-back majority governments. His Liberal Party, unlike the New Democratic Party, is not a coalition with organized labour. He has more political manoeuvering room than Rae did.
In political terms, McGuinty faces a different challenge than Rae. He occupies the centre of the political spectrum. In a political tug of war with the public sector unions, it is predictable that the NDP will side with the unions and oppose the measures (whatever they are). It is equally predictable Conservative Leader Tim Hudak will be in favour of more draconian budget cuts, as was the Harris Government. He will oppose negotiations.
McGuinty’s challenge is to choose a path that enlarges the centre of the political spectrum. This is the time for him to fully become the political reincarnation of premier William Grenville Davis – a reasonable leader
dealing pragmatically with a tough situation.
One other difference today is that if labour leadership doesn’t like the idea, it actually can vote NDP.
What advice do I have for Premier McGuinty?
· Do remember that in a country with a short summer, days off – even without pay – are a popular trade for many people.
· Do not make a televised spectacle of an effort to secure concessions. The presence of television cameras heightens rhetoric and makes it harder to get a deal. The overall objective is not to win an Oscar for Sid Ryan, but to secure a deal.
· Do not, as Rae did privately, refer to the key public sector labour leaders as “the four windbags of the Apocalypse.” This will make your negotiators’ task harder.
· Do continue to show nurses, teachers and public servants the respect for their work that won you their backing. Separate the issue of pay from the issue of respect.
· Do not try for a one-size-fits-all approach. Dalton Days for civil servants are fundamentally different than Dalton Days for nurses and other health workers, who would need to be replaced often at higher overtime costs.
· Do not mistake the unpopularity of public sector unions for an unpopularity of public sector workers such as teachers and nurses.
· Do be careful!
Finally, for those who wonder if after 16 years my own views have changed. I still believe the effort to spare 50,000 jobs by convincing 1 million public sector workers to take 10 days without pay was the best option available to the Rae government. I still regret that a voluntary, negotiated settlement could not be reached and that legislation proved necessary. I still believe it was the Rae government’s finest hour because it put what was good for the people of Ontario ahead of what was good for its political fortunes.
Universities under pressure to recognize more college credits
November 10, 2009
By Dominique Lamberton
Ryerson is looking at ways to facilitate a smoother transition for incoming college transfer students — a response to the government’s push for a regulated transfer credit system in Ontario by 2012. According to a Council of Ontario Universities report, the province’s universities are not well integrated with its colleges.
Although university courses are fairly standardized across the country, college courses vary and often do not receive university credit. At Ryerson’s senate meeting on Nov. 3, a priorities committee presented their
findings on the issue. They discussed if Ryerson was doing enough to recognize transfer credits and how it should respond to the move for regulation.
Currently, college transfers make up 15 per cent of undergraduate students at Ryerson. “I think there’s many students that come from the college system and are unsure how their credits are going to count and what they could count for what degree program,” said Ryerson President Sheldon Levy. “I think there are lots of issues under which universities should be working with the colleges much closer.”
The Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has pressed its post-secondary institution to establish an integrated system like British Columbia and Alberta, stated the report released in July. Neil Thomlinson, a member of the priorities committee, said that often, college courses are not relatable to university courses and makes it harder to grant those credits.
“Ryerson program coordinators all try to get students the most credit they can, but at Ryerson it’s complicated by the curriculum structure,” Thomlinson said. He added that Ryerson differs from most schools because of its many specific, professional programs so the odds of taking a relatable course at college are
slim. Also, prior courses taken by college transfer students will often count for a professionally-related or liberal credit but won’t be equivalent of a class in a specific program, he said.
A possible solution could include stating on the letter of offer the number of credits a college transfer will get upon their acceptance, rather than waiting till the school year begins, he added.
Sessional Faculty Reaches Tentative Deal With U Of Toronto, Averts Strike Set
By AHN Staff
Toronto, Ontario (AHN) – The sessional faculty of the University of Toronto, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3902 Unit 3, reached on Sunday a deal with the university averting a strike set for Nov. 9. The agreement, covers a three-year period from Sept.1, 2009 to Aug. 31, 2012. It guarantees a course load of two FCEs per year for Sessional Lecturer 3 rank holders and an increase in base wages by 3 percent for the first two years and 3.3 percent for the third year.
The deal also provides for two months paid maternity leave and one month paid parent leave or a 95 percent top up to Employment Insurance payments for the duration of the contract for members who qualify.
CUPE Local 3902 have been in discussing with the university since July over contract terms such as salary hikes and job security, until a stalemate caused the two parties to put talks on hold in August.
The sessional faculty are those on call to teach as needed. They perform 30 percent of the teaching in the University of Toronto and number about 6,000, including teaching assistant who are also represented by CUPE Local 3902. Membersof Unit 3 will meet on Nov. 15 to discuss the ratification vote for the tentative agreement. If the union members agree to a ratification vote, the referendum will be held on Nov. 17 and 18.
‘Dalton Days’ Concept Greeted With Scepticism Forcing Public-Sector Workers: To Take Unpaid Days Off Unlikely To Happen With Election Due In 2011, Observers Say.
The Globe and Mail November 6, 2009
By Karen Howlett
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s musings on unpaid holidays for civil servants reflect rising political pressure to do something about the advantages that the province’s public sector has enjoyed over private-sector employees. But the Premier runs the risk of undermining his own legacy for restoring labour peace in Ontario if he declares “Dalton Days,” a measure that would result in some cost savings for the government but would do nothing to address the province’s economic problems, observers say. A look at Lakehead
University’s tussle over unpaid days gives a taste of the unrest any major moves could trigger for the McGuinty government. The observers, from a range of sectors, questioned the Liberals’ resolve to potentially pick a fight with nurses, teachers and civil servants. After all, they said, the Liberals have demonstrated little desire to rein in spending since the onset of the global recession a year ago, and they are facing a provincial election in 2011.
“No government is going to cast its fate to the wind roughly [two years] before they have to go to the public,” said Hugh Mackenzie, research associate with the left-of-centre Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Mr. McGuinty said this week it is not fair that civil servants have been sheltered from the recession while thousands of private-sector workers have lost their jobs. He refused to rule out unpaid days off for public-sector workers.
His comments followed Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s announcement of a “sweeping review” of government spending to help eliminate the province’s record $24.7-billion deficit for this fiscal year.
“We have to look at every aspect of government, including wages and benefits,” Mr. Duncan told reporters yesterday.
So far, the government has spared the legislature’s 107 MPPs and senior civil servants from sharing the pain. As part of a restraint package unveiled last December, salary increases were capped at 1.5 per cent a year for MPPs and senior civil servants, and the Ontario Public Service was frozen at 68,645 employees.
Mr. McGuinty was elected in 2003 on a pledge to restore labour peace in the province following dramatic funding cuts to health care and education as part of the former Harris government’s Common Sense Revolution. David Docherty, a political science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said Mr. McGuinty faces difficult choices. “I think he’s afraid of being attacked on the right if he were to raise taxes, and he would be going against what got him elected in the first place if he cut services,” Prof. Docherty said.
Former NDP premier Bob Rae used a similar strategy of unpaid days off to deal with a deficit in the early 1990s, which the unions condemned as “Rae Days.” Warren Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, has warned the government that the NDP’s Social Contract would be struck down by
the courts today because collective bargaining has been recognized as a protected right. “McGuinty can’t legislate his way out of this,” Mr. Thomas said.
The experience of Lakehead, the first university in Canada to ask faculty members to take unpaid days off during the Christmas holidays, could serve as a spectre of what’s in store for the McGuinty government, said Henry Mandelbaum, executive director of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. The union representing faculty argues that the move amounts to a pay cut and the matter is now before an arbitrator.
“Not only would he be tackling a large portion of the Ontario population and making his party’s re-election more difficult, but also he’d be undermining his own legacy,” Mr. Mandelbaum said.
Queen’s Centre The Most Costly Project In Kingston’s History : Price Of Athletic Centre Likely To Top $250 Million
JORDAN PRESS KINGSTON, Ont.
Simply put, it is massive both in size and price. The Queen’s Centre at the heart of historic Queen’s university will likely cost more than $250 million when finished.
The project has seen more than 340 contractors and sub-contractors on site during the project, totaling about 1,800 workers who put in almost 550,000 work hours.
It took two years to design, itself an issue.“Many things can happen over that time such as the availability of labour and the cost of materials, so, you’re always trying to adjust,” said university construction director
Jacques Sauve. “Also, over time, people can come and go, both at Queen’s and with PCL, and some of the history gets lost with them – such as the reasons why or why not things were done or designed a particular way. It can be time-consuming to retrace those types of decisions but a necessary investment of time to ensure we don’t start second-guessing ourselves.”
The first phase of the project is priced at $169 million, a $45-million increase from the original budget and dwarfs the most expensive project undertaken in the City of Kingston: a $115-million upgrade to the Ravensview water treatment plants completed this year. Queen’s has already spent more than $100 million on the Queen’s Centre and put the balance on hold until it finds more funding.
To control costs, Queen’s and PCL switched to a fixed-bid contract until the end of construction. The original plan tabled in 2006 was to replace an aging hockey rink and tired athletic centre with a main gym with seating for 2,000 spectators, a 25-metre pool with seating for 150, a new fitness centre, eight squash courts and two racquetball courts, a food court and space for the school of kinesiology in phase one.
The second and third phases would include a new hockey arena, a field house and expanded student life space. Queen’s expected completion by 2014. Now, the university is hoping to finish off phase one this fall despite setbacks such as an Aug. 11 rainstorm which damaged the new hardwood gym floors and required replacement of the electrical systems.
The university wanted an environmentally friendly building and general contractor PCL has used low volatile organic compound (VOC) materials in the centre’s construction and installed air-handling units with heat recovery capability and low flush toilets and urinals into the building. PCL also recycled construction debris and used mud mats and silt fences to prevent erosion and control sediment.
“Recycling and reuse of materials, indoor air quality and erosion and sediment control are just good construction practices,” says PCL project manager Tom Valente said.
The building also reuses pieces of the old Jock Harty Arena, which was demolished in 2007 to make way for the new centre and will reuse thousands of tonnes of limestone blocks. Steel roof joists from the old area will also be reused.
Workers also had to remove 24 houses from the perimeter of the construction site and preserve nine heritage homes from damage due to rock blasting to excavate 40-feet down. Workers removed more than 100,000 cubic metres of rock from the site — the equivalent of about one truckload leaving the site every five minutes during excavation — and removed more than 30,000 cubic metres of soil from the site.