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…