City’s negotiations on Valleyview labour deal deemed ‘bizarre’ and ‘ludicrous’


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s a case of “inefficiency, it’s disrespectful to the employees and it’s going to cost the city a fortune.”

Not a flattering assessment of labour negotiations between the city and Valleyview Home employees, represented by Unifor Local 27.

In fact, Unifor national representative Robert Buchanan calls the turn of events since May 25 when a settlement was reached with city administration both “bizarre” and “ludicrous.”

To recap, on June 8 about 100 City of St. Thomas employees at Valleyview voted in favour of the May 25 settlement.

The three-year deal provides for a two per cent wage increase in each year of the deal in addition to health and welfare benefit improvements.

The employees have been without a contract since Dec. 31 of last year.

The union’s bargaining team also secured a commitment from the city to maintain full-time jobs and add more staffing hours to the laundry department.

ValleyviewHowever on June 10, Buchanan received an email from the city indicating they haven’t signed the memorandum and therefore their ratification wouldn’t take place.

Speaking with Buchanan on Friday, he indicated his last correspondence with the city was an email sent to administration this past Tuesday in an effort to determine the outcome of any discussions at Monday’s council meeting.

“The city sent us an email saying there is no memorandum, just agreed-to issues,” said Buchanan. “We’re taking the position the deal is done. That’s where we’re going. I really don’t understand what the city is doing.”

Hmmm. First time we’ve ever heard that observation.

“We concluded bargaining, there were no more issues outstanding,” Buchanan continued. “The document we signed on the 25th of May resolved all of the issues except for a pay equity issue and that’s not a bargaining issue.”

So it’s a done deal, Buchanan advised.

“The union has no more proposals and the employer has no more proposals . . . It’s been resolved, it’s signed off. It’s the most bizarre thing. It’s ludicrous, really.”

Leaving Buchanan and Unifor no option but to take the matter to a higher authority.

“We’ll have to go to the labour board. The law allows us to take them to the labour board and the other thing the law does allow is when there is a memorandum, arbitrators usually uphold that memorandum. They award what the parties have voluntarily agreed upon.”

Neither Director of Human Resources Graham Dart nor City Manager Wendell Graves will comment on what Buchanan insisted are concluded negotiations.

In fact Buchanan told the Times-Journal on Monday, “their ink is on every second page of the memorandum.”

The pen in this case wielded by Dart, according to Buchanan.

The HR director can’t be overly worried. He was on the links this week at Tarandowah Golfers Club for the Elgin County Warden’s golf tourney.

“This is a huge cost for the city,” Buchanan pointed out. “They don’t get to the labour board unless they’ve got a lawyer. It’s inefficiency, it’s disrespectful to the employees and it’s going to cost the city a fortune. To go over something everyone’s agreed to. Their name’s on it.”

So, where’s the problem?

“I get the sense there’s something else going on here, quite frankly,” Buchanan suggested. “I think there are some real control issues going on.”

As in who is driving the bus – our elected representative or city administrators?

Is it too early to start referring to him as Mayor Graves?

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TURNING THE CORNER?

After years of watching their their beloved school suffer agonizing demolition by neglect, there was a breath of fresh air last Saturday at the 115th reunion of the Alma College International Alumnae Association in London.

05jt01almamainpicjpg

St. Thomas history buff Ryan Belanger, left, and London developer Gino Reale, owner of the Alma College property.

More than 60 members from across the continent gathered in London at the Lamplighter Inn for photos and fellowship punctuated by lunch with guest speaker Gino Reale, the new owner of the Moore Street property.

The London developer expressed heartfelt regret the Ella Bowes chapel – demolished last month – and the music building – soon to meet the same fate – were economically beyond saving.

But Reale perked up spirits with news the magnificent amphitheatre – of late weed-strewn and the depository for garbage – is to be returned to a respectable representation of its former self.

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Alma College alumnae visited the amphitheatre in 2009. Jackie Piche and a team of volunteers began refurbishing the site shortly before when she discovered that it had been completely grown over with weeds. Alma College graduation ceremonies and theatrical production used to take place in the amphitheatre.

In fact during downtime for equipment repairs on the Alma site, his work crew has begun cleanup of what will be the last vestige of the former school for girls.

The hope then is to turn the amphitheatre over to an independent group – perhaps the city could be a player here – to maintain and operate as a possible venue for concerts and the like.

In the short time he has owned the property, Reale has been sensitive to the history of Alma and those who attended the school while clearing the site of mounds of rubble in preparation for future development.

What the future holds for the Alma property has yet to be finalized but Reale hints at residential development, perhaps in a multi-use format.

Whatever lies ahead, the alumnae association appeared upbeat following Reale’s from-the-heart address.

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STILL WITH ALMA

Apparently a significant number of plaques and other items from Alma have been offered to the alumnae association. The memorabilia is now in the possession of two St. Thomas-area residents.

alma-plaque

Alma College plaque

As we understand, they bought the items from the Zubick family for an undetermined price and now want to sell the cache for several thousand dollars.

You have to wonder why the Zubicks felt they had the right to strip the college clean and then offer valuable pieces of life at Alma for sale when the ethical thing to do would be turn them over to the alumnae association or the Elgin County Museum/Archives for preservation and viewing by the public at large.

What is disconcerting is one of the individuals offering the material for sale, if we’re not mistaken, attended Alma College.

Does either party have invoices/bill of sale for these articles?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Yurek Jeff 2012

“This government continues to ration health care services. Money is going to bureaucracy and administration in the entire healthcare system instead of frontline health care workers.”

Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek in response to further cuts announced this week at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital.

City Scope appears Saturday in the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to imccallum@postmedia.com.

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