Election Squeaker -- Not Good News
You remember Andre Cornellier. He was the face of the Amalgamated Transit Union. Yes -- the union which left Ottawa bus users stranded for 53 days during the coldest part of the past winter.
Brother Andre has just been re-elected ATU president for another three years. But he didn't walk away with it. He had opposition. Leaving only 73 votes between him and his rival. Vote total: 689 for Cornellier and 616 for the union member with the cojones to run against him.
The closeness of this vote is an indication that Brother Andre no longer enjoys iron-fisted control of his union. Union watchers figured this out a couple of weeks ago when the rank and file refused to vote in support of an agreement Brother Andre and ATU international vice-president Randy Graham reached with the city which would have taken away the bus drivers' right to strike from future collective agreements.
In labor relations, timing is everything. The bus strike ended when the union agreed to let its dispute with the city go to arbitration. The arbitrator's report is expected sometime in September, but the arbitrator's signature will barely be dry on the document when it will be time to negotiate a new collective agreement.
Citizen Ellie's source within the ATU membership says the rank and file isn't interested in giving up their right to strike until they see what's in the arbitrator's report. The same source says the rank and file were divided on arbitration right from the get-go. Many felt another couple of weeks on the picket lines would have forced the city to cave in and meet their demands-- regardless of what Mayor Larry wanted.
An arbitrator cannot unilaterally take away a union's right to strike -- so the report will be silent on that issue. The city can't do it unilaterally either. Union members have to vote on it and Citizen Ellie's source says that unless OC Transpo is declared an essential service, the rank and file won't give up the leverage they enjoy with the right to strike.
It would appear that Brother Andre and Councillor Alex Cullen jumped the gun when they trumpeted that an end to bus strikes had been achieved. Somebody forgot something important. There's no agreement until the union membership decides.
A divided bus driver bargaining unit is probably the last thing Ottawans need. Especially when the bargaining unit is headed into a new round of negotiations. Can Brother Andre and Brother Randy make committments during negotiations which will be supported by the rank and file ? That's the big question remaining to be answered.
"Extortion" ? You Decide !
Councillor Alex Cullen's shorts are binding once again. This time he's in a state because a group of angry taxpayers are preparing a series of bus ads critical of the way the city manages our money.
The organization, Ottawa Taxpayers' Advocacy Group, issued a news release in advance of the bus ads. It stated: "Legal extortion by City Hall ? You decide." The news release claims Ottawa's property taxes are the highest in the country and the city is overstaffed and over-paid.
With regard to the over-paid statement, the "sunshine list" which names all city employees earning over $100,000 per year speaks for itself. It's a public document and can be accessed through the city's web site. (And what about councillors voting themselves extra funds for their office budgets ?)
Councillor Cullen tries to rebut the statement regarding the high property taxes by dragging out the old chesnut about the significant portion of property tax structure being set by the provincial government.
We know about the provincially-mandeated programs -- social assistance, childcare services, social housing, public health etc. which were downloaded by Mike Harris on to the shoulders of Ontario property taxpayers. There's a formula: 80% paid by province, 20% paid by municipality.
What Councillor Cullen neglects to say is that he and the other wealth-redistributers currently occupying seats around the council table decreed that 20% from the municipality wasn't enough and Ottawans could be more generous. Thank you, Councillor Cullen.
What Councillor Cullen neglects to say is that he and the other wealth redistributers currently warming the chairs around the council table also decreed that property taxpayers should subsidize over 50% of OC Transpo's operating costs -- and that's why, in Ottawa, we have the paradox of widows living on small fixed incomes (pensions) subsidizing bus fares so well-paid public servants can ride the buses on the cheap. Thank you, Councillor Cullen.
In Citizen Ellie's case, some 17% of her net pension income (net -- that's after income tax and other deductions at source) goes to municipal property tax. Of this, close to $1000 is her share of OC Transpo's subsidy. Thank you, Councillor Cullen.
Perhaps Councillor Cullen, in his capacity as a mayoral candidate, would like to visit Citizen Ellie's street during the spring run-off and whenever there is a heavy rain. Even if Citizen Ellie wanted to ride the bus on these occasions, she would need a pair of Wellies to negotiate the flood which makes the street impassable for pedestrians as it has no storm sewers ! Get out your hip waders, Alex ! There's a photo op for you ! Let's not even start on the subject of snow removal.
Is there a tax revolt in the making ? Could be. Citizen Ellie can't remember the last time irate taxpayers got together to sponsor bus ads (or any type of ads, for that matter) critical of how the city spends tax dollars. Now what we need is a mayoral candidate supported by a slate -- to unseat the wealth-redistributors on council who fleece us like sheep !
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