Monday, April 20, 2009

City Hall On Strike

No, I'm not on strike. I'm a non-union professional employee, so I get to come into work, but not before crossing a picket line or two.

Striking in this current economic climate is not the logical thing to do. People are losing their jobs, and those that still have them have received no increases, or worse, had to take pay cuts.

A major issue in this strike is post-retirement benefits. I'm not talking about pensions - those are handled separately and are not an issue. Post-retirement benefits are the benefits (medical, dental, drugs) that you received while working and will keep receiving when you retire. The cost of such benefits is borne by the employer.

Most municipalities in Ontario limit post-retirement benefits till age 65. Others have a 10-year limit. Some do not provide post-retirement benefits at all. Windsor is the exception. The municipality provides lifetime post-retirement benefits. That is an expensive proposition.

The City is willing to keep lifetime post-retirement benefits for existing employees. For new hires, the City wants post-retirement benefits to be limited to 65 at which point the provincial plan kicks (it is not as generous as the municipal plan). Non-union employees are already subject to a similar arrangement.

The union argues that in the future, the new employees will have minimal interest in keeping lifetime post-retirement benefits and may be willing to scrap it in favour of wage increases or other negotiated items. Now, this could be true, but with over 1,600 employees, it will take some time for new hires to dominate the union. One would think that over this time, union officers could indoctrinate the new hires.

Then again, unions are supposed to be democratic institutions. If the majority of employees want to scrap lifetime post-retirement benefits, then so be it.

Right now, I'm still working at my usual job. That could change in the coming weeks. I'm sure that certain people will be 'protected' because they are better at kissing ass than I am. Oh well. Time will tell.