June 5 2013: Mayor Francis seeks re-election by union bashing and more outsourcing?

June 5, 2013|Posted in: Uncategorised

At a time when progressive thinkers are advocating for a living wage, Windsor’s mayor continues to roll on towards a wage desert for Windsor.

And it’s all for short term political gains: the old gambit to pit workers against each other, and the suburbs against the inner city. Full article is below and HERE

Chris Vander Doelen
Jun 04, 2013 – 6:02 PM EDT
Last Updated: Jun 05, 2013 – 7:01 AM EDT

Could Windsor start another wave of municipal outsourcing by privatizing its parks maintenance jobs?

It could happen if most of Windsor’s 211 parks aren’t seen to be spick and span pretty soon, Mayor Eddie Francis says.

Just as a trend to privatized garbage pickup started in Windsor and spread after its famous 100-day garbage strike in 2009, private parks maintenance could be the next future wave that starts at this end of Highway 401.

If it happens, the reason for it would be the same as for privatizing garbage pickup, Francis warns: public backlash. More outsourcing will happen if the people currently paid to look after the city’s public spaces don’t pull up their socks.

As various news stories and a column from my colleague Anne Jarvis have pointed out recently, Windsor’s parks seem to be in worse shape than they used to be, and citizens don’t like it.

The mayor says contracting out many of the 204 CUPE union parks and facilities jobs connected to the parks system could be the inevitable end game to the controversy.

Francis said he has raised the possibility with Jim Wood, president of CUPE Local 82, whose members have performed all of Windsor’s park maintenance work since 1963.

Wood was on vacation this week, and unavailable to comment on the spectre of additional contracting out at city hall.

But Francis’s threat shouldn’t scare Wood’s members too much. After all, not one of them lost their jobs when Windsor contracted out garbage pickup. In fact, 31 of them are now doing parks maintenance. They’d undoubtedly have the same jobs-for-life protection if the parks work were outsourced, too.

But at the national level the union would be forced to fight tooth and nail against further outsourcing if it doesn’t want to risk losing thousands of members and their dues from coast to coast. All it would take is one city doing it successfully, and other municipalities would be emboldened to try it too.

Francis says Wood – who led the local through the garbage strike – took the warning as the friendly advice it was intended to be, rather than the threat some might logically make of it.

“I did the guy a favour, actually,” Francis said of Wood on Tuesday. “I told him, it’s going to get to the point where if the public gets mad enough the natural step will be outsourcing.

“I told them they’d better get their act in shape or the public will demand that we outsource them and there will no way to get that back once that ship sails.”

Councillors are already “taking calls” on poor parks conditions, Francis says. Complaint calls tend to make municipal politicians jumpy in the run-up to the next election.

“I don’t understand what’s going on,” Francis says of the parks. “Half of Jackson Park is cut, the other half isn’t. Or the ends of a park are cut, but the middle isn’t. Or it’s been cut but it isn’t trimmed.

“It’s not as if we weren’t there – we were there and the work didn’t get done. Guys, what is the issue?” Francis pleads to an imaginary audience of parks workers. “I want to know what the issue is.”

Francis has already debunked claims from parks and facilities department boss John Miceli that a shortage of staff and funding after five years of tax freezes is at the root of the problem.

Staffing levels are higher than they’ve ever been, thanks to 31 Local 82 workers “displaced” to the parks staff by the outsourcing of garbage pickup. The budget is also flush with cash after increases of 14 per cent since 2010, to $14.6 million.

How realistic is Francis’ threat? I suspect there is an element of bluster in it – a defensive reaction against the obviously political claim that his tax freezes are to blame for swaying grass and blowing litter.

“I know exactly what they’re doing – everybody is getting ready for 2014 and everybody is laying their claim,” Francis says.

Translation: some department heads are betting that Francis might not run for office for a fourth term. They’re creating a trail of claims to justify future budget increases. Depending on who replaces him, taxes could shoot up again.

Now that he mentions it, there seems to have been a string of statements from the city’s left flank recently that too many tax freezes are bad for public services. Really?

They might have a case if Windsor’s taxes were low, but even after all those freezes the city’s industrial, commercial and apartment taxes are still above average for the province.

I think CUPE and its supporters on city council might be betting wrong if they don’t think Francis is capable of whipping up enough public support to embark on another interesting experiment in outsourcing.

Board president WWEC, member at large Social Justice Windsor District Labour Council, host of campus community radio program The ShakeUp on CJAM 99.1FM

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