He’s never one to shy away from controversy and if that has ever been in doubt, then the following comments passed along to us from St. Thomas entrepreneur Bob McCaig should spark lively debate.
His observations are culled from a letter sent to Randy Hillier, Conservative MPP for Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, in which McCaig praises Ontario PC’s “for having the guts to openly discuss major labour reform in Ontario.”
In a nutshell, McCaig says the time has come to end the union free ride at the expense of taxpayers.
I warned you feathers would be ruffled.
McCaig opens by observing: “Here in St. Thomas where I live, we have witnessed the careful dismantling of 99% of our industrial base. It would be convenient to blame organized labour, particularly the CAW, for the collapse of our manufacturing base, but it would be unfair to blame them alone.
“Management and government that endorses production in Free Trade, not Fair Trade environments must also shoulder its full share of responsibility,” McCaig continues.
“One can understand the desire of industry to produce at the lowest possible cost, but it’s a cruel lesson to deliver to the current generation of workers. They are being destined, through no fault of their own to travel a dispossessed road for the next quarter century.
“It will take at least that and longer for enslaved Chinese workers and all others in Pacific rim countries who toil long hours in miserable working conditions with no thought for the environment, health standards or living conditions to catch up even to our current falling standard of living.”
Returning to the situation in this province, McCaig advises: “Public service unions representing police, fire, teachers at all levels, public service workers, indeed every unionized group in Ontario, has had a free ride at the expense of taxpayers with their inflated pension plans and special circumstances creating WSIB coverage even of prostate cancer for fire workers which, unfortunately, our own MPP Steve Peters was encouraged to support and push through the house, even with the foolish support of your own (PC) caucus.”
McCaig suggests closed shops alone have forced the collapse of any legitimate labour/management relationship.
“What is the answer to this financially untenable situation? In the short term, we need to examine where our industrial production has gone. If not Mexico or off-shore it has gone to one or more of the 24 U.S. jurisdictions that champion right-to-work legislation.
Here’s what needs to be accomplished points out McCaig: “It will take government with resolve to sweep aside the feather-bedding by provincial and municipal labour organizations and their untenable pension costs.
In conclusion, McCaig notes the fact Ontario PCs are prepared to address the matters referred to above, “will invoke overwhelming interest and provoke much discussion and soul searching by all of us in future elections at all levels.”
Union bashing or stark reality on McCaig’s part? Your input is welcome and I’m sure there will be no shortage of rebuttals/thumbs up in the coming days.
HOPE FOR A BETTER ENDING
Susan Bancroft has spent half of her working life on the floor of the Timken plant in St. Thomas. To put it bluntly, she is disappointed. Not just with the news the plant will soon close, but with the treatment of employees following the disclosure.
She writes: “I was always very proud to be a part of the Timken team. For years we worked six days a week, which meant we spent more time with our fellow workers than we did with our own families.
“Yes I am grateful to The Timken Company for giving me the opportunity for a stable, secure job for the past 28 years, but in return I worked hard and gave it my all as well. When I heard the plant was closing, I promised myself I would continue on with my work ethics and go out with my head held high, knowing I did all that I could do. ”
Bancroft confesses she is sad and disappointed in the fact the company she was so proud to be a part of obviously doesn’t hold employees in the same regard.
“In my opinion, to offer us only one week of pay for every year of service (albeit total years) is a slap in the face and shows a total lack of disrespect and integrity. While I understand The Timken Company will do what is best for “The Company,” I can’t help but wonder why it is they feel one week is fair compensation.
She points out: “We were advised after the closure was announced, to hold our heads high and work hard until the end, so that we could end on a positive note. However, while I personally plan to keep my end of the bargain, I am sad to say I feel The Timken Company is not.
“Timken Canada has been a vital part of The Timken Company for over 65 years and instead of ending on a high note with our heads held high, we will walk out of this facility feeling confused, disrespected, angry, and degraded. For that I am very sad and disheartened because I had sincerely hoped for a better ending.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“It’s always been part of the mandate that they wanted as part of their exit strategy. I don’t think that has changed.”
Peter Whatmore, of CBRE Limited, the commercial realtor assisting with the sale of Ford Canada’s St. Thomas Assembly Plant, tells the Times-Journal Ford’s best-case scenario had always been selling the massive facility to a purchaser who can help replace jobs lost after the closure last September.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.Follow @ianscityscope
I witnessed the same happen in my former home town (Stratford, railway shops closing, CN re-trenching in general; a half-dozen furniture factories disappearing); fortunately, along came the realization that perhaps William Shakespeare could revitalize and help things prosper again!
Bob McCaig has raised very serious concerns, which are now increasingly common to Ontario as well as many other jurisdictions, particularly California and other States witnessing the “bankruptcy” of one city/municipality after another (4 in California alone).
In Ontario, the excessive public union labour contract pay/benefits contract decisions by arbitrators, for example, who have been applying Toronto police, fire and EMS contract awards/decisions broadly in arbitrations elsewhere including York Regional Municipality, which is now in frightening substantial debt for one of the wealthiest regions in the province, along with other regions and municipalities.
If this trend continues in public sector labour union contract negotiations and awards, as well as in management compensation and benefits decisions, we too will have municipalities in this province unable to hire sufficient staff or to acquire the stock to open, run and staff newly-built police, library and other facilities. The rapidly growing number of former employees on pensions paying 65-90% of their best 5 years compensation (police in San Jose, California are actually eligible to receive 90% of their former annual compensation in yearly pension receipts). With the anticipated vast increase in the numbers of baby-boomers hitting retirement age in municipalities and provincial government departments/agencies, boards and commissions shortly, this can no longer be ignored. When the anticipated retirements of those reaching 65 years is combined with the vast numbers of police, fire, EMS, teachers and other public sector employees often eligible for retirement at 55 years, the magnitude of the problems being ignored by arbitrators involved in municipal, fire, EMS and police contract awards is astonishing. There is currently no need for arbitrators in such contract disputes to consider the municipality’s financial position and budgetary constraints.
Similarly, municipal and provincial government proposals and approvals for the construction of more multi-million dollar new public facilities, in an economy that has slowed down and will continue to see low growth for a number of years, although providing temporary increases in construction jobs, will not be sustainable over the longer term as municipal and provincial government entities are required to contribute more and more to maintain salaries, pension and other benefit plans for current employees, since these plans will likely be unable to achieve the high investment returns they saw in the last two decades due to the current and predicted future economic conditions.
For further information on the magnitude of the problem with arbitration decisions, see the Association of Municipalities of Ontario website under Issues – Arbitration.