The unwritten story of the Vancouver Municipal Strike

With the strike now months over I’ve been looking for a story about the total costs of the Vancouver municipal strike and have yet to see one.

Most critically, I’ve been hearing from a number of sources that the strike to a heavy toll on the city’s staff. In short, many staff were unable survive for several months on strike pay along and ended up quitting their jobs and taking employment elsewhere. While no one has been specific about the numbers – they suggest they are large enough to represent several % points of the workforce. Indeed it would be interesting to learn how many staff got poached by the neighboring municipalities.
The costs of recruiting and training staff are significant (I’m frequently told it generally takes 6-9 months for someone to get up to speed on job) and these costs often don’t not even take into account the lost tacit knowledge and institutional memory held by employees who left. It’s possible that the real damage of the Vancouver strike hasn’t even been felt or noticed yet by the Vancouver’s citizens.

Worse still, neither the union nor the city appear to care much about this issue. In their stand off against each other, these workers were probably seen as expendable. The Mayor’s aggressive behaviour was in an effort to recast the next election along pro vs. anti union lines. When you are as unpopular as he is, it is possibly the only remaining strategy that will attract traditional NPA voters. As a result having a large swath of the public service quit conformed nicely with this tactic.

On the union’s side, the retention of any given member was probably not of consequence as the assumption was that some new face will simply jump in and pay union dues once the strike ends. As long as the number of jobs is unchanged, who fills them may not matter to the leadership.

With both the Union and Sam claiming victory (how I don’t know). It seems everyone won, except of course, the citizens of Vancouver, along with the current and past employees of the city.

I’d love to see the Vancouver Sun cover this…

4 thoughts on “The unwritten story of the Vancouver Municipal Strike

  1. Geoff Meggs

    David, I think the unions, particularly CUPE 1004, which does the outside work, pointed to this problem quite frequently. These losses are on top of a very serious demographic issue, which is a high rate of retirements as senior “boomer” staff take advantage of their pensions. These retirements may accelerate as well in the wake of the confrontation. On the plus side, the union benefits are very attractive to many employees who could not get similar conditions in the private sector, so the city has a recruiting advantage in that respect, as well as offering a big, diverse workplace with chances for promotion and lateral moves to different departments.

    GEoff

    Reply
  2. Geoff Meggs

    David, I think the unions, particularly CUPE 1004, which does the outside work, pointed to this problem quite frequently. These losses are on top of a very serious demographic issue, which is a high rate of retirements as senior “boomer” staff take advantage of their pensions. These retirements may accelerate as well in the wake of the confrontation. On the plus side, the union benefits are very attractive to many employees who could not get similar conditions in the private sector, so the city has a recruiting advantage in that respect, as well as offering a big, diverse workplace with chances for promotion and lateral moves to different departments.GEoff

    Reply
  3. J Barker

    The premise of this post is apparently inaccurate. There were no “big losses” of staff due to the strike, so there is no unwritten story as you say. See the quote in today’s Province:

    “Theresa Beer, city communications co-ordinator, said a tally shows there were few staff losses during the 12-week labour dispute.

    She said 27 people failed to return to work to outside jobs — 17 who resigned and 10 who retired. Among inside workers, 32 people left, 21 by resigning and 11 by retiring.

    In 2006, during the same period as the 2007 summer strike, more workers left.”

    Geoff is right about one thing, I’m hearing that staff are loving the promotional opportunities becoming available as boomers retire. Many city departments had very little staff promotion opportunities until recently.

    Reply
  4. J Barker

    The premise of this post is apparently inaccurate. There were no “big losses” of staff due to the strike, so there is no unwritten story as you say. See the quote in today’s Province:”Theresa Beer, city communications co-ordinator, said a tally shows there were few staff losses during the 12-week labour dispute.She said 27 people failed to return to work to outside jobs — 17 who resigned and 10 who retired. Among inside workers, 32 people left, 21 by resigning and 11 by retiring.In 2006, during the same period as the 2007 summer strike, more workers left.”Geoff is right about one thing, I’m hearing that staff are loving the promotional opportunities becoming available as boomers retire. Many city departments had very little staff promotion opportunities until recently.

    Reply

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