The people versus the powerful (you decide which is which)

A labour relations board ruling may open the door for an anticipated Canadian Taxpayers Federation-funded legal action against the Hospital Employees' Union, Public Eye has learned. In a decision, which was handed down on February 15, board associate chair Michael Fleming ruled the union breached part five of the labour relations code when they mounted a political protest against the provincial government last year, essentially organizing what amounted to an illegal strike.

That ruling was sought by five men whose legal fees are being covered by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. The men allege the political protest delayed their medical treatment, causing them "frustration, anxiety and emotional upset" and, in some cases, "economic loss due to an inability to work between April 30 and the re-scheduled procedure, or the need to take additional time off work for the re-scheduled procedure" - allegations denied by the union. But, in order for the men to seek damages in court, the labour relations board needed to declare the strike illegal.

The men were represented at the board by Bruce Hallsor of Crease, Harman and Company fame. Mr. Hallsor is the past president of the Victoria-Beacon Hill provincial Liberal constituency association, vice-president of the federal Conservative Saanich-Gulf Islands constituency association and a former Canadian Alliance election candidate.

During the union's strike, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation ran a series of radio advertisements "aimed at providing information on the HEU's contract and inviting patients to 'strike back' by contacting the CTF and organizing a class action suit," according to a letter soliciting donations for the legal action (which is expected to cost as much as $100,000).

The federation's British Columbia executive director Sara MacIntyre says a lawsuit against the union has not yet been filed but submissions are being prepared. But the federation might have to wait a while yet before filing those submissions.

In an interview with Public Eye, hospital employees' communications director Mike Old said that, "We believe this is a seriously flawed (labour relations board) decision. And our legal council says we have excellent grounds on which to appeal. And we will."

68 Comments

The Canadian Taxpayer's Federation bucketshop, ... not to be confused with the legitimate research agency, the Canadian Tax Foundation, ... though, of course, an intentional confusion was quite deliberate when the name for the former was coined, ... has always had a large, loud, full-frontal, anti-union agenda. One of the curiousities of the Canadian Right in recent years has been the tac taken by Preston Manning, Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper as Leaders of the Reform, Alliance, and Conservative Parties. They have for the most part avoided explicit anti-union rhetoric and policies, in sharp contrast to their ideological cousins in provincial capitals, such as Gordon Campbell, Ralph Harris, and Mike Klein.

Manning, Day, and Harper haven't been in power, in a government facing budgetary problems. Therefore, they haven't had any occasion to deal with obstinate public sector unions.

That was easy.

The Canadian Tax Evasion Federation is a more appropriate name.

It’s funny how the NDP suddenly are so concerned with patients not getting timely ER care at Surrey Memorial and yet when the HEU illegally strike and prevents thousands of British Columbian’s from getting timely health care it is all OK. Public sector Unions seem to think it OK to keep kids from school, prevent patients from getting surgery and threaten people’s livelily hoods all in the name of greed. They assume they have some god given right to not only expect, but demand a raise every contract and will screw over the public every time in the process to get what they want. At the same time, they can afford to spend millions campaigning for the NDP (indirectly just so Carole James can call for a ban on party donations and play the innocent non Union card) and now the pond scum want to come knocking on my door to try and tell me to vote for Carole James who is too busy out “fundraising” to help the mostly Union candidates, who are already getting Union donations as it is. Jim Sinclair actually thinks everything was wonderful during the 90’s. The NDP is a sad joke and I am hopeful that these court proceedings punish the HEU for being the criminals they truly are. At least the Nurses Union has finally started to act like the true professionals the public expects in our health system, something the HEU has seriously compromised.

As I recall, the leader of the BCNDP did not endorse or cheer on the "illegal job action" taken by HEU. I put "illegal job action" in quotes, because in all reality, it was a job action taken against a government that shredded legally binding collective agreements, and contracts. And if government can shred agreements and contracts, thereby acting illegally in of itself, just where do they get off having others who engage similar actions. illegal? That being said, the NDP did not publicly endorse the job action taken.

And Larsen, I know you have a hard on for the so called "Big Unions" but cut the rhetoric. Answer me this one, based on your previous rants? How come its perfectly fine for business people, enterpreneurs (sp?), bankers, accountants, lawyers etc to run for politics, but because union people do so, automatically they're the boogieman? And here's another newsflash for you, not every union member or union for that fact supports the NDP. Federally or provincially. Such is democracy.

Here's a novel idea and one that would put an end to all this bs once and for all. Let's ban union and business and special interest group donations to all political parties, or severely restrict it, such as they did federally. It would be quite interesting to see the funding field levelled for once, as opposed to being bombarded by government ads that instead of being brought to you by the BC Govt, are now brought to you by The BC Fiberals.

So what do you think Larsen? Think that the playing field in terms of funding should be levelled?

i support a ban on "union and business and special interest group donations to all political parties" as well. but the liberals will never never agree to it. they would never survive on the measly contributions from their tight fisted "private" supporters. and in all fairness, they would be fools to agree to stopping the $100,000+ payoffs from big business. but the least whiners like Larsen could do is admit it. so, Larson, what do you say. ban or no ban. yes or no.

I think the hypocrisy lies with you Kevin, purporting to be offended by the union actions when more people and kids have been hurt by the policies of your government.The unions have the rights accorded to them and it is the Fiberals who are playing fast and loose with the so called God given rights to turn the province over to big business.You seem to keep ignoring Kevin the dire predictions the medical communty made about Fiberla health policies and agendas when they were implementing cuts to heralth services to justify two tiered systems and privitisation.The pond scum is the person you look at in the mirror everyday looking back you.Deflecting criticism on your favourite scapegoats will not make right the mismanagement of your Fiberals.

As far as I can see the Canadian taxpayers federation is pretty much the same as the Fraser Institute. So it isn't very hard to see where the ideology comes from. a pathetic bunch of #*skissers

I'm glad someone is finally standing up to the unions. There's no way that they should be able to run around claiming to have the support of "the people"

This is balance, people! Why some people cant understand the right of BOTH SIDES to legitimately exist, I do not know.

"The unions should be able to run around doing whatever they want and those who disagree with them should just sit there and live with it"

Give me a break.

Oh yeah, for those who says the CTF is close to the Fraser Institute, what's the diff between the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, the HEU, and the NDP?

Get over it.

The difference between the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Max my boy - since you are either purposefully obfuscating or are unable to think critically - is that the Fraser Institute is mouthpiece of the multinational corporate agenda - profits for the few over the health and safety of the many. The Canadian Centre for policy alternatives actually thinks about positive outcomes for us lowly Canadian human beings. - oh never mind Max

Three Cheers for union busting, three cheers for CTF three cheers for the Farser Istitute Three Cheers For Gordon Campbell.

More hypocrisy from the NDP and it's union buddies.

Watch for Jim Sinclair to bring out his Carole James ventriloquist puppet at the next speaking engagement. Who's the real leader of the NDP?

The problem with unions supporting political parties kegler is that they are using their members dues to fund their campaigning. Members who for the most part are intimidated to not speak their mind if they are not NDP supporters.

There are a lot of people who are a part of a union who don't want to be, but have no choice. They shouldn't have to watch their dues be spent on something they don't believe in, and they should be able to speak their minds. But that's not the way the union works.

The HEU put themselves in this position by holding the public hostage and taking the typical union approach of "hold my breath and stamp my feet until I get what I DESERVE!".

Well they got what they deserved, and I hope this lawsuit kicks the crap out of them. I have no sympathy for them.

Hmmm... maybe the reason provincial right wingers clash with unions more than federal right wingers is because labour is a PROVINCIAL jurisdiction!

There is a significant difference between the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The Fraser institute is a tax charitable status research organization focusing on issues of governance. Yes, they come from the point of view that the free market is best mechanism.

The Fraser Institute as a charity is very limited in what political advocacy it can do.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is an adovocacy group working for more accountability on how taxes are collected and spent.

The CTF is not a registered charity because they do not want to be fettered by the rules of a charity and ultimately it would be hypocritical of them to take tax dollars to do their work.

So who funds the so called taxpayers Association?We know what charity right offs the Fraser Insitute hot tub is for.
Employees of Walmart in the USA rely on $2, 500, 000, 000 federal payments because of their standard of living working for Walmart.I think this is really what the so called free market is about and what the future here holds for us in Canada as we follow the same "free market" ideology.
The Fiberal agenda is about squashing unions and worker's rights because that is what big business wants.I am glad the agenda is out front for all to see what this party stands for and what Larsen and Pointdexter stand for.

sb you really have no clue do you? You're right, I don't support unions. But to say I want to see people with a low standard of living is just completely untrue.

I am all for people earning based on effort and knowledge. So for example, that means that someone with little or no education at Walmart or cleaning floors at VGH don't make wages that are completely out of step with someone who has education, training and technical expertise in their chosen field. Simple as that.

It's not about crushing the working man, or building empires or anything along those lines. It's simply about earning what you're worth and being realistic in your expectations.

Sorry it's not as romantic as your idea of "the oppressed workers vs the evil small businesses of BC", but it's fact.

Pointdexter, great to see someone actually believes that we are living in a meritocracy, or at least should be. I guess you are also in favor in the abolishment of the right of inhertitance? That would really level the playing field and insure that everyone earns what they get in this life based on merit.

I hope I am not putting words into other people's mouths, but it would appear to me that Max Power and pointdexter do not agree with the notion of workers having a right to organize or to strike. Is that correct, or have I oversimplified their position?

In direct contrast to what Max Power says, the HEU was never suggesting that it could or "should be able to run around doing whatever they want". On the contrary, they have to work within the confines of existing labour legislation just like anyone else. And in the case of hospitals that meant extensive arrangements for essential service staffing levels which, as we all know, the HE Union never threatened. However, health system managers arbitrarily cancelled procedures in order to increase punishment and pressure upon the general public, something that a very experienced political gumshoe like Bernard is well aware of. So, ... why doesn't the totally fake CTF take the health managers and executives to court, Bernard? Any suggestions? Maybe someone at your favourite charitable "institute" can tell you how that one works, or maybe Mike Geoghegan can draw you a picture!

As usual nothing is ever the Unions fault, it's always management or the Liberals. Most of the problems we do have are from government mismanagement (not the BC Liberals, but decades of socialist governments who have a affinity for bureaucracy), but not this time. The HEU shut down the Health care system as a form of political protest and threatened, and tried hard, to shut down the province. They deserve everything they're getting. I hope this buries the HEU. The unions need to stop hiding behind this, “we’re looking out for all British Columbians” facade. They’re selfish, greedy, and militant organizations that will stop at nothing to get their way.

There`s still a question unanswered on this thread. I would also like to see donations from unions and corporations to political parties banned. Is this something that right and left can agree on? Larsen? We are waiting for an answer.

Second point- it`s not ok for unions to go on strike, but ok for doctors, is that what I`m hearing. And by the way, guess who donated a tidy sum to the Campbell "Liberals"? The BC Medical Association. But thats ok?

Bongo must be taking lessons from John English. His talents in the event fabrication department are stellar. Consider this gem: "The HEU shut down the Health care system as a form of political protest and threatened, and tried hard, to shut down the province." That nothing of the sort ever happened has nothing to do with it, ... because don't you see, it's a free country, ... and therefore Bongo or John English or Kevin Larsen are free to make up whatever fake history they want.

Do you even live in BC Budd Campbell? Where were you when the HEU was striking and pushing for a 'general strike' with their union buddies?

It was clearly a political move, and the unions figured if they all held their breath and stamped their feet at the same time, maybe someone would care.

But guess what? No one did, and the union execs knew if there was a general strike the public would rightfully crucify the unions, so they caved. The gov't and taxpayers won.

Now those poor union members have to cut their vacation back from 4 weeks after 1 year of service to maybe 3 weeks, and they only get 5 sick days a year instead of nine.

Oh the humanity!

Budd, How is what I said a fabrication? I would like to know. Are you going to tell me that unions have never gone on strike now. I’m sorry Budd but you’re a little delusional right now.

As you well know, Bongo, the labour legislation does not allow for a complete shutdown of the hospital system. Essential service levels must be maintained, and the union was complying with that. You're well aware of this, and yet you chose to say that "HEU shut down the Health care system as a form of political protest and threatened, and tried hard, to shut down the province", neither of which happened.

First of all pointdexter you obviously have no idea what the union members are entitled to. As well you totalise the union movement as low skilled workers who you think should be denied benefits, health care,and a liveable wage. That is what the Fiberals stand for and what you stand for and I get it loud and clear.Whether the union did the right thing in trying to stand up for themselves in the face of outrageous contract tearing up and broken promises is up debatable in that they were fined.What else they could have done I am not sure and that is for a longer discussion.
However when it comes to the Canadian Taxpayers association, a front for big business suing the labour union, it smacks of Kevin Falcon doing a recall campaign as Gordo swore he had no affiliation with the Fiberal party.They are doing it because my friends this is class warfare. Where were they when the contracts were torn up and Bill 28 was passed.Doing for us citizens, well no , people are not that stupid , well maybe some people on this blog.

Budd, you are correct, they wouldn’t sit there and let you die, but had no problem seeing you wither in pain. Also they did try to encourage a general strike which would have shut the province down.

SB, what are union members entitled to? This notion that the Liberals want everyone to fail and stay on the bottom is a myth perpetuated by unions, which you are obviously a member of sb. In fact unions for the most part keep people down. A union uses the most skilled and hardest workers to subsidize thethe lazy and weak workers.

A prime example is the fact that many HEU members who are highly skilled are finding employment in the private sector. Why are they doing this? It's because they realize that the unskilled are riding on their coattails. The skilled are being underpaid while the unskilled are being overpaid. This is the inherent flaw with a union. The best and brightest suffer for the benefit of the unskilled and lazy. This is the #1 problem with the HEU.

The Liberals are trying to create an environment where everyone can get ahead provided you are willing to educated yourself (school, training, apprenticing) and work hard. The complete opposite attitude of a union. In a nutshell, unions are great for the worst workers and bad for the best workers. You may not like this statement but it’s the truth.

SB, watch calling people stupid especially when you include words in your posts that aren’t even real words.
Unions screw business all the time, this time it’s businesses turn to bite back.

Budd:

Deep down I know you love me. The fact that you make reference to me when I'm not even around is truly flattering.

I support the right of workers to unionize and organize. I support the right to strike in most situations, but I am also supportive of certain life or death jobs being declared as essential services.

However, I also support the right of duly elected government's to look unions in the eye in times of fiscal restraint and say no. I also support the right of government to roll back wages in times of fiscal restraint, espcially is the alternative is widespread lay-offs.

Furthermore, I support the right of union members to vote a government out of power (or at least try to) if they are pissed off. That's democracy.

As for banning corporate and union donations, I am all for it. I think its healthy to take big money out of politics. However, I would only support such a law if every penny of donated labour was also included in the ban. Only true volunteers allowed and no one paid by somepone else to work on a campaign.

I would also support limiting the political advocacy role that unions play with members dues, or at least allow union members to opt out of all political actions by their unions and pocket the difference. Again, that's democracy.

Essential services were maintained during the HEU strike, and always will be when its a matter of life and death. But, really, shouldn't Liberal supporters be asking why Essential Service ratio are higher than the usual ratio? I mean, obviously, that's a waste of money, having more people at work than are absolutely necessary!

When unions make up 33% of the provinces work force, and union household are more than 60%, maybe those naysayers should look at that and notice that they might have something to say. The suggestion that unions do not support meritocracy is stupid- if it weren't for the union movement for the last one hundred years, most people on this blog wouldn't know how to read! If that isn't dedication to meritocracy (working people having the same opportunities as the rich, and being advanced because of their ability to capitalize on those opportunities) I'm really not sure what is.

Further, to suggest that the guy who makes sure the hospital isn't going to make you worse than when you entered is less worthy than the nurse who makes sure you can recuperate from whatever ails you is preposterous and counter-productive. It takes two years of study to become an LPN and it takes several months to get all the certification to become a facility manager (or whatever they're called. Too PC for me...), and both positions require plenty of experience before you'll ever see top dollar. Like, twenty years experience. And the big pay day for 20 years experience? About 60,000 a year, both cases. Are you really suggesting, [B]Poindexter[/B] that after twenty years of experience, the difference of a few months education should make a huge difference? Or are you just unwilling to admit that one position is as respectable as the other?

I find it humorous how the NDP constantly live in big labor Union denial until pressed, then they resort to the ‘ol Big Business votes BC Liberal so its OK for Big Unions to run the NDP as if somehow there is equality in that thinking. Do you ever see some disgruntled business owners keeping your kids out of school because their business did not make as much money as they thought it should have? Do business interests try to shut down our health care system simply because they had a bad year and will make less money than the year before? The BCGEU currently has it’s own workers striking and tells them since BCGEU members have not had big raises, neither will you. Did big Unions tell the NDP during the 90’s – It’s OK Glen, we don’t need raises, because we know as Province you are broke and don’t have the money to pay us? Of course not. Listen to Jim Sinclair – over 200,000 people in this province are back to work and the guy who supposedly represents workers thinks that is a bad thing? Where is Carole James in all of this? Sitting back letting the Unions do all of her dirty work and claiming that business and Union donations should be banned. Why is she not calling on the BCTF, BCFED, BGGEU, HEU, & CUPE to end their BS campaigns and reject their donations if she is so against Union involvement in the NDP? More hypocrisy from the NDP as always.

Chelsea an HEU member working as a cook in the kitchen makes over $20/hr and a laundry worker makes over $18/hr. Not to mention unbelievable good benefits.

I said "little or no education" - on the job training in the cafeteria or laundry facility doesn't count for much when compared to a 2 year BCIT course.

Is it less worthy - no. Is it less important - maybe. But the point is that the same job in the private sector would command much less for an hourly wage. What makes the HEU so special?

The big $60 000 payday for 20 years experience as a laundry worker Chelsea? Maybe you should ask someone working as a legal assistant, optician, office administrator or average manager in almost any field whether they ever expect to see that wage sitting in the same job and making no effort to further themselves acedmically.

Wow, to be able to sarcastically call $60 000 a year 'the big pay day'- must be nice. Most people I know aren't there.

I think you need to step into reality and spend some time working in the private sector Chelsea.

I love how people say I don't believe in union's right to exist just because I don't think they should be all high and mightly and think that their alliance with the NDP and CCPA is all great while the Fraser Institute and CTF having some sort of lose ideological connection is EVIL.

It's a different set of rules, as always, in the crazy ways of the NDP in BC.

Oh yeah, one other thing, can the people on the left who actually understand and respect the fact that "the people" happen to be scattered all over the political specturm and not alligned with one particular party please make yourselfs known so that we can put to bed the myth that the NDP is the party that somehow has the divine right to be known as "the people's party"?

...or do we have to wait until May 17th to point that out again?

And 'Kevin' how about the god-given right to expect and demand profits....what is the diff? To me they are the same - expectations for a bigger piece of the pie and this is generally led by the profiteers and the union people want a piece of that and on and on. Only difference is unions don't rape and pillage and go to war.

Hey pointdexter and Chelsea, you better take some math lessons.$20 an hour does not even closely compute to $60, 000 dollars a year(though I agree with everything you said Chelsea).As well you may want to see what in fact HEU cleaners are actually getting, which is not much since they have been privatised.My inlaws who were staunch Fiberls until they had a stint at Royal Columbian and saw the appalling conditions and dirt that we now have in the hospitals(glad to say they will not be voting for the Fibs when they saw for themselves). And the fibs have more in store. My sister in law who works as a nurse's aide after a one year course is getting 18 dollars an hour looking after 20 old folks with alzheimers and other neurological disorders on her ward, changing diapers etc.They have been told that they are going to be sold ater the next election and will be getting $14 an hour.Sounds like alot, well give this job a try and support a family on this wage, on shift work and long hours.You will be very broke and depressed.
But hey, apparently some people deserve more if they fit pointdexters and larsen setting the bar high enough cause they are so well trained and educated and men and well you know,,,,privileged.Better than those working class folks who work with their hands and do those jobs they do not want to do cause , well they are stupid, unskilled, and according to them fit for only the bottom of the barrel folks who do not have their ambitions. Maybe we can all be like bongo.

Unions don't pillage?

What do you call shutting down the schools for a few days of "fun picketing" every three or so years? Or shutting down the ferry system and isolating the island altogether for a week?

The Liberals were gutless for not firing the whole lot of the ferry workers, and hiring replacements. Did anyone think every terminated employee would not have had a dozen willing replacements at the same pay rate? Retired CF types could have piloted the ships in the meanwhile...

Less common, but, what do you call slashing the tires of scabs, or the cutting of cables that is so common when the cable company out in Quebec is having a labour dispute?

Businesses aren't the ones who try to intimidate everybody passing by a store into coming inside, whereas picketing workers will do their best to stop customers from going in.

Way to pick and choose there MA. The majority of unions tactics fall well within the law. You are suggesting the actions of a few should condemn all. By that logic all business should be outlawed because of the damage done by Enron -- hell, you don't have to look that far to find unethical business practices (leaky condos anyone?).

Like it or not, MA, unions are here to stay.

You can't scare me, I'm stickin' to the union.... I have never been represented on the job by a union, but I can't tell you the number of times and ways I have been indebted to the labour movement. My weekend, the minimum wages I have worked for in the past, the labour code... All thing that I never had to fight for that I am grateful for. Thats from someone who has worked non-union extensively in the priviate sector (though I am now working in the non-profit). Solidarity is still a powerful force.

I agree wholeheartedly with sb that there is something wrong with the arithmetic here when $20 per hour can be thought to result in a $60K annual, unless we are talking about substantial overtime. I did some checking a few months ago, and HEU contracts in BC did seem to provide about $2 more per hour for entry level kitchen and cleaning staff than otherwise comparable contracts in Alberta and Ontario. It's true that the previous NDP Govt and the HEU had a joint policy of "low-wage redress" or wage compression. I think it's an arguable case that such an approach is indicated in a high cost city like Vancouver. And with rising real estate prices in Victoria and the Okanagan there is only about 15% to 20% of BC's population living in moderately priced communities, so perhaps there is a need for a higher minimum floor everywhere.

I heard an interesting story from a laid off security worker at St Paul's. He and two other very senior security people, in their last year prior to the service being contracted out to some good Liberals, got all kinds of unusual overtime that brought each of them to an annual T4 type total of $60,000 plus change. All three of them within a few hundred dollars of each other, all in a range of $60K to $61K. Coincidence? No, ... it was a ploy by Liberal-oriented health "managers" to be able to say, without lying, that "Some of our previous HEU security staff were making in excess of $60,000 per year. That's why our new Liberal, ... er, private sector contractor makes so much sense from the taxpayer's viewpoint."

These "managers" are the kind of "talent" that our more conservative commentators, like John English and Kevin Larsen, don't mind paying major salaries to, ... until the political sands shift and it's more expedient to give them a big severance settlement instead. For the life of me, I cannot see how English and Larsen are missing the blindingly obvious party patronage angle here when we have the shining example of the Liberals Sponsorship Scandal in the news daily.

After scanning all the comments on this subject, all I can say is I'm happy I no longer live in B.C.

For the record, there is no reliable evidence that privatization of public services cuts costs. There is considerable evidence, however, that it redistributes costs from workers to management. And, privatization does encourage short-term over long-term efficiencies. These facts are well established in the business literature and are one reason why the Fraser Institute does not conduct research according to established methodological standards.

Further, it is quite evident that unions serve a pro-business purpose because they introduce reliability into what would otherwise be a chaotic labour environment. Unions discipline their workers so business owners don't have to. Imagine if every presently unionized worker were to become a free agent negotiating an individual contract. Where disputes occur, the only remedy would be the courts. The judicial system would collapse under the strain. Alternatively, taxpayers would have to support a massive judicial structure.

Insofar as unions create what used to be called a 'living wage', they also ensure a stable labour supply. The British experience with privatization as a method of lowering labour costs has been to drive necessary workers out of the south of England because workers can no longer afford to live there. This ought to concern residents of Vancouver where housing costs continue to escalate (pleasing developers) making it increasingly difficult for low wage earners to live close to where they work. The inevitable result must be either a labour shortage, or public subsidies of low wages through increased investment in social housing, transit, roads, and so forth. Hence, for example, hospital labour costs are merely transfered to the transportation sector.

So, let's be clear. Unions create efficiencies and securities within the labour market. Any discussion of unions must include these efficiencies as a balance against costs.

Business groups, of course, have an interest in keeping down costs by either transfering them to government or depressing the value of labour. In this sense, they, like unions, are a special interest because they pursue their own interests rather than the interests of the public as a whole. The art of government is the balancing of interests - not the uncritical support of some interests over others. Government must speak for all members of the public. The success of any government must stand or fall on this criteria.

Wherever one stands on the political spectrum it seems obvious to me that any government that alienates a considerable proportion of the public fails this test. The Campbell government fails - if for no other reason - because it has consistently failed to represent a large proportion of the public. The result was predictable. A proportion of the public became belligerent. Those who are not heard tend to resort to louder and more disruptive forms of communication.

The pity is, it is all so unnecessary.

I don't know where you've moved to Gerry but I suspect that the same debates around the effects of unionization occur where you are living today. The only difference is that they probably haven't acquired the same political cachet and resonance as what they have in BC.

For years business executives in BC used complaints about organized labour as an excuse to be offered up to head office when the profit figures for the BC operations were queried for being too low. However, come the 1990s and the decline to near zero of strike activity, the focus of business blame tossing changed, for the most part, to the NDP Govt. Where once it was strikes and (allegedly) resulting high wage levels that were causing the operation to produce a low rate of return, now it was a socialist government bent on high taxes and costly regulation that was making life impossible. But notice that while Gordon Campbell's Govt has reduced business taxes, and has (they say) reduced the cost of regulatory compliance, there has been no real increase in business investment, something confirmed just a couple of days ago by the latest release of the StatCan survey on investment.

In closing, let me say thanks to you Gerry for a very learned piece of labour economics. Did you study at UBC or UVic, by any change?

I have to agree. Gerry makes a lot of common sense, and is able to put it into words. Thanks.

Uh, forgive me, but I'm confused...

Isn't the CTF's mandate something to do with keeping more dollars in income earners' pockets by reducing taxes? When did they become a patient advocacy organization? Isn't their mandate closer to that of the unions--i.e. more dollars in people's pockets--than to patient advocacy (i.e. more costly medical procedures that take dollars out of taxpayers' pockets)?

...forgive my ignorance, all you knowledgeable pundits, but the only answer that makes sense of all this to me is that the CTF's mandate goes beyond tax breaks and only applies to rich people--i.e. more tax breaks AND more government-funded services for people who don't need unions to ensure they can pocket a fair wage at the end of the day.

Pardon me, a few more comments, if I may...

MA, I'm confused by your reference to unions "shutting down the schools for a few days of 'fun picketing' every three or so years" My son's in Grade 6 and has never lost a day of school to job action. Snow, maybe; viruses, certainly. Even head lice once, but no union closures, sorry, it must have been some other sector. (Or perhaps you meant the parents who have been picketing outside schools here & there against cuts and closures and the need for seismic upgrading--all of which the CTF is fighting tooth & nail to ensure we don't get?)

Poindexter et al, I'm also confused by your apparent outrage over unskilled hospital workers earning $18 an hour to clean up disgusting stuff. Possibly you're unaware that unskilled workers earn similar wages in the private sector in construction, energy sector etc.? (You think that might be the reason for our high gas and housing prices? Would make sense, huh, if that's the big problem in health care? Now there's something the CTF should tackle head on, don't you think?)

...and Gerry, nice post, by the way. Where did you say you were living now that you've left BC?

hey gerry that was a great post there, you even had that boot lickin toady,,tripping all over himself to kiss your ass , do you understand the post BUDD. campbell,
it,s not quite that simple though, gerry, intangibles plus swollen heads allways get in the way of smooth governing, regardless of stripe.

nic

Confused: I'm pretty sure the support staff in the schools went out on strike somewhere from '99 to '01, and the teachers also took a few days off out of "respect" for this, but perhaps it was slightly longer ago than that. Of course, the Liberals essentially outlawed shutting down the schools shortly after the election, so it obviously hasn't happened in the past four years... the teachers had a three year contract, ending then, so therefore their most recent strike must have been seven or eight years ago. Good job just missing it.

I generally don't have a problem with private sector unions, because almost none of them work for groups with a government mandated monopoly on services, and those who do (ie, Telus) don't shut down the phone system when they're mad at their employer.

My post above was in response to someone portraying unions as incapable of doing wrong. Schools were mentioned, in passing, due to the historical trend of NDP supporters arguing that shutting down the schools was for the betterment of "the working class", disregarding that "the working class" types were the least capable of affording alternative arrangements for their children.

Nice to see nobody disagreeing about the ferry strike, though.

I find it interesting that the CTF did not go after the Dr's of this province when they were striking for more money!!.How many people had to be flown out of the province for care, and surgeries had to be cancelled.Where were the lawsuits then.Oh my mistake, Dr vs Janitor. This is just another example of the liberals and their supporters saying it's ok to go after the average worker, but don't you dare go after the upper class. You all make me sick!

Good point KP, doctors are so dime a dozen these days - just post a "help wanted" ad and take your pick right? But a highly skilled janitor, where does one begin? They must be in such short supply that Carole James would like to train more. Why does she suggest more skilled workers are even needed when she and Jim Sinclair have been saying all along that the economic recovery pf BC is not occurring and the only jobs are part time and minimum wage? Kind of contradiction in terms, or yet another example of the hypocrisy that is the NDP. What a joke. Skilled workers are in short supply because the province is back to work again – and for once not on the taxpayer dime.

Larsen you miss the point entirely...why didn't your friends at the CTF sue the doctors!!
Tell me then that it's ok for an orthopedic surgeon who billed MSP in 1999 $500.000.00 should not be subjected to the same type of lawsuit!!You just don't get it do you!!And that was only MSP, not federal,military or WCB billings.Please have some consideration for all peoples rights.

kp.. I think you missed Larsen's point. See what he's trying to say is that its perfectly fine for the government to act illegally by breaking legally binding collective agreements to suit their own needs, but its not ok for a group that's been pushed to the edge of the abyss by this same immoral, unethical government's actions to "break the law," of course, the law brought forward by an immoral, unethical, contract breaking bunch of liars.

In a nutshell, Mr. Larsen is saying "Do as I say not as I do." Am I close Larsen? These endless tirades against HEU on here are getting rather boring. Why don't you spend some time spewing your venom at the people who truly instigated the entire situation... your immoral, unethical Fiberal government.

I didn't see CTF stand up for the principles of legally binding collective agreements being ripped apart by this so called "business like" government. And what does it say for a "business like" government that it can turn around and break contracts at whim? Who would want to do business in that manner. I guess much like BC Rail, parts of BC Hydro, bill collection services, MSP administration and the like, the Campbell government sees integrity as something else they can sell down the river, or play fast and loose with.

And answer me this Larsen, you love sitting on here attacking Carole James. How come the Fiberals are so scared to have their budget subjected to the estimates debate? You're not going to tell me that lil ol Gordo is scared of a 3 seat opposition are you? Sure looks like he is. I also see today that he took 61 million out of his slush fund to build an elementary school in surrey. Where's the money coming from? Where's the line by line explanation of the budget and how they arrived at their projections? How come they only put 1.7 billion dollars back against a debt that they themselves added 6 billion too? Come on Larsen, where's your answers to that these questions????

You like to spew about HEU this and big unions that, but you never seem to answer the questions put to you. And one more thing about the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Taxpayers... hmmm. Don't union people pay taxes, and for the most part at a substantially higher rate than others due to their earnings advantage??? Did the CTF bother consulting with the general public before going forward with their so called public interest lawsuit? Who's funding this lawsuit? Any direct connection with the BC Fiberals or their supporters???

You seem to have all the answers Larsen, poindexter etc.... come on, answer these questions? What's Gordo scared of in not exposing his budget to line by line estimates debate? I know that's a lot to digest so I'll leave it there for now. Just remember, answer the questions that have been asked.

Sure Kegler I am happy to answer your questions….

First your statement “breaking legally binding collective agreements to suit their own needs”…I take issue with this statement. This was done to satisfy the needs of taxpayers who are paying an ever-increasing share of money to a health system that is out of control with consuming money. Primarily because of insane deals where janitors and cooks make insane wages and benefits for their actual job skills. Paid sick days, huge amounts of holidays, short work weeks and all kinds of perks not found anywhere else in the real world and given out by NDP governments precisely so during an election they can count on the brothers and sisters to come out swinging and spending. It’s crap and real British Columbians are tired of it. The NDP complain about “private” health care and they are the government that actually doubled the amount of private clinics in this province. What a joke. Hence one of many reasons why I attack Carole James.

As for your question about budget debate in the legislature, give yourself a break kegler what a waste of time. We all know that the NDP are really only trying desperately to keep MLA’s in Victoria so they can have the ridings empty to go “door knocking” and try to win support by fear mongering and misinformation – it’s all the NDP ever does “doom and gloom” all the way. Ever hear anything positive come out of Carole James mouth ? This budget will be rightfully for British Columbians to decide on come May 17 and is the reality that the NDP had better come to realize. Besides, the NDP promised their own platform once the budget was released, maybe they should spend more time on that – mind you criticizing seems to come naturally for Carole James, maybe she would like to comment on exactly how many new doctors the NDP added to the faculty over the decade of doom?. How about zero. Maybe Carole James should ask “real British Columbians” what they think of that.

Actually kegler, one area where I agree; union people do pay taxes, and actually they are in one the tax brackets that got the biggest break from Campbell – and don’t give me the claw back story either – these same unions get all those little things like MSP paid for – it’s all part of those perks that “real” working people pay for. Just look at how much more NET take home pay every member of the BCTF gets now – on average $5K more than they did under the NDP, just look at average elementary school teacher wages in any School District and give your head a shake kegler – and they still spend $ 5 million of their union dues whining in favor of the NDP who gave them nothing. Big union labor cares only for itself and I maintain will screw over the public every time to satisfy their own greed.

I've had it with unions and when we get 4 more years you had better believe Campbell will deliver a wake up call to these greedy bastards that will leave their heads spinning.As for teachers we need a complete overhaul of the system,starting with private contracts for school boards.Gordon Campbell has some very innovative plans to put schools back in the hands of the people.He will break the stranglehold the BCTF has on our childrens education and start working closely with large corporations to begin creating a model that puts control where it belongs.By partnering with buisiness Campbell recognizes thaty we can create the best system for health and education.But first we must smash the unions.Talk to your neighbours and let them know we must never let our system to fall back into their sickeningly greedy hands again.

Kevin Larsen calmly states that: "This [breaking health sector labour contracts] was done to satisfy the needs of taxpayers who are paying an ever-increasing share of money to a health system that is out of control with consuming money. Primarily because of insane deals where janitors and cooks make insane wages and benefits for their actual job skills. Paid sick days, huge amounts of holidays, short work weeks and all kinds of perks not found anywhere else in the real world and given out by NDP governments precisely so during an election they can count on the brothers and sisters to come out swinging and spending. It?s crap and real British Columbians are tired of it. The NDP complain about ?private? health care and they are the government that actually doubled the amount of private clinics in this province. What a joke. Hence one of many reasons why I attack Carole James."

As I said earlier, wages for entry level kitchen and cleaning staff were somewhat higher, perhaps $2 per hour, in BC under the old HEU agreements than in comparable union agreements in Ontario and Alberta. So, ... if the BC rates were, as Kevin so rationally and objectively puts it, "insane", then the situation in Ontario and Alberta cannot be far behind, given a modest $2 per hour differential. So why have Ontario and Alberta Govt's agreed to these wage levels? If the BC NDP Govt was awarding wages $2 higher than in Alberta and Ontario, ... why were the Alberta and Ontario Govt's being as generous as they were, ... what was their political angle???

Kevin goes on to complain that under the NDP these workers got paid sick days and vacation days. Are there no paid sick or vacation days in Ontario or Alberta hospitals? What about the new Liberal contractors who are doing security, cooking, cleaning, etc., ... do they not provide their workers with any paid sick days or any holidays at all? How how god-damn tough are these Liberal contractors in terms of managing their workers?

I think we`ve already seen how Cambull will work closely with large coporations ie. Sodexho, Compass, Aramark, Accenture, CN, and I suspect that Larsen and "ajoke" are pretty extreme opinions as far as the general public goes. It`s disturbing to see the hatred some people develop for what essentially may be their next door neigbours- nurses, firemen, garbage collector, etc,etc. Hopefully most will see that it`s not in our public interest to have another session of the BC "Liberals". It`s just too damaging. By the way, contract usually means "a formal contract between two parties,especially one that is legally binding". At least it used to mean that.

Hi folks,

Many thanks for the kind remarks. I would however like to suggest that terms such as "bootlicking" are unsuited to civil discourse. Name-calling is a poor substitute for reason.

For those who've inquired, I presently live in Ontario. This gives me an interesting perspective on events in B.C. (which I left last July). I recall, for example, that during the last provincial election Mr. Campbell used to say B.C. should be more like Ontario - Mike Harris then presiding. From what I've been able to determine, this means running (and hiding) a deficit, selling off public assets cheap (don't mention the 407 around southern Ontario unless you want an earful), and allowing your infrastructure to crumble. The general rule seems to have been; never invest in something today when you can put it off and make it twice as expensive after the next election. Ontario's saving grace is that it failed in its Olympic bid so it is possible we might see some fiscal order sometime in the next five years.

I would also like to add that from this side of the Rockies B.C. continues to look like the spoiled child of Confederation. It will not go long unnoticed that B.C. is balancing its books, in part, on the contributions of Ontario and Alberta. Collins/Hansen may fool the feds into believing B.C. is a "have-not" province but Ontario wrote the script. Look for changes in equalization payments being a big issue in the next federal election.

With respect to the current discussion of medical costs I cannot help notice that nobody has mentioned the biggest runaway cost facing B.C. Med - namely the cost of medication. This is closely followed by the cost of technological investment. It's an odd thing about medicine, but labour is not a major determiner of cost. Moreover, health economists have long noted that up to 50% of health expenditure is spent on the final year of life.

So, here's my observation. B.C. has retirement communities popping up all over the place. I've not seen any numbers on the subject, but I'm guessing the small amount of population growth B.C. has experienced over the past five years or so is primarily amongst retiring seniors. My question is: Do you folks believe these seniors will bring sufficient investment dollars to cover their health costs? Certainly it seems to me of little importance whether cleaners are paid $18 or $16 an hour when patients are easily consuming the difference every minute.

“It`s disturbing to see the hatred some people develop for what essentially may be their next door neigbours” For once Parkhurst, I agree with you fully.

You see, I do have teachers that I have as friends, and here is the problem. Campbell gave them all big raises – more than the NDP ever did. Average elementary teacher made just over $56 K around this Province when the NDP was kicked out – today, thanks to Campbell they make over $ 62,000 – plus with tax cuts they save another $ 1000 from what they were paying Glen Clarke and the cronies. So your looking at an extra $7000 a year for a job that gives you summers off. On top of that those “massive” class sizes you keep hearing about? Average around the province was 22.6 kids in a class in 2001 and is now a “whopping” 23.2. I have a challenge for all of the real teachers in this Province – are you willing to give up the extra $ 7000 a year in order to loose that one extra student? Anyone want to guess the answer? And the funny thing, of all my teacher friends, not one has even close to 30 kids in a class. Yet we have to sit back and watch the BCTF distort reality and play politics for their buddies in the NDP. Newsflash to the BCTF – I don’t like teachers playing politics, I don’t support teachers playing politics, and I certainly have zero respect for a Union who uses kids as pawns for political and financial greed.

Well sir, as a teacher and a born in BC "real British Columbian I have read with interest your comments. I have two science classes with over 30 students in them in a building that the government was quite willing to build to class size limits of 24 because of safety concerns. In one of those classes I have 6 students who require formal individual education plans because their learning difficulties are so severe. Formerly, I would have had a maximum of two. I negotiated those limits and achieved, through very hard bargaining, an agreement with my employer, the democratically elected school board in my district. That collective agreement was vapourized in 2002 by Bills 27 and 28. I neither asked for nor agreed to those bills They were enacted before I had ever taken any student out of their class by striking. So tell me who politicized the education system?

So let me ask you this GPopp would you be willing to give up your pay increase to go back to 2001? Because that is the difference, that is where the money went – into your wages. All the effects since 2001 you decree came at the expense of your wage increases. I hear Simms calling for 430 million just to go back to 2001 – Is that including or excluding your raises? With the 2005 education budget now announced, more money has gone into per student funding since 2001 than in the entire decade of the NDP. The interesting part – every so called BCTF member that writes anything publicly sounds exactly like you, or shall I say, exactly like the pre-scripted form letter sent out by your Union to disservice the public. Believe it or not Gpopp there are honest teachers amongst us who do not support the BCTF becoming so political in this campaign. There is still anger out there from not being financially compensated by the NDP and instead being legislated back to work at the same time. Yes, Gpopp there are still teachers who have the strength of character to realize that undermining the public trust for the benefit of the NDP, the same NDP who did nothing in return, is not only not in the public’s best interests, it is also doing a disservice to the honorable teachers in this province.

Why shouldn`t teachers "play politics"? Is there a law against it? Or are you saying there should be such a law? Everyone should be allowed to play politics.

Hopefully you will soon be able to come back to BC and enjoy the mild weather, Gerry. You're quite right about the drug costs being a huge and growing percentage of medical expenses and one not, in general, covered by Medicare. However, I don't think we should dispute, or wish to dispute, the cost and the value of skilled and professional labour services in health care, especially in longer term care and home care for the elderly.

BC does not face the same acute problem with relative aging that some Atlantic provinces and Saskatchewan will over the next couple of decades, since migration and immigration will keep on bringing in some working age people. While there are retirement communities here where the percentage over 65 is huge, these are pockets, concentrations, not the provincial average. It's the provinces who are losing their working age people but retaining their older people who are going to be facing the most acute cost pressures.

But Gerry, I am still dying to know where you studied labour economics, at UVic, SFU, UBC?


Well this one is a little off topic to a point I guess. I have to stand up and tip my hat to Gordon Campbell. Not only does he trounce all over the labour relations and collective bargaining process and agreements in place within the union movement, he does the exact same thing to people who would traditionally support the Liberals... Crown Prosecutors.

Agree to binding arbitration, then legislate the ruling out of existance?? And to do it to a professional class who are more likely to vote for the Fiberals. First he rips up HEU collective agreements after promising the union he would do no such thing during the election campaign. Then he strips (through a puppet arbitrator after numerous ones wouldn't touch his directive with a 10 ft pole, fearing for their integrity) the teachers collective agreements of all language pertaining to working conditions, language agreed to by such left wing nutbars as WAC Bennett, Bill Bennett, and Bill Van Der Zalm, leading to huge increases in class sizes, and downsizing and in some cases elimination of special education funding and resources.

And now he picks a fight with the Crown prosecutors, and through legislation, removes their right to strike. Hmmm. My question I guess would be, what if they all resigned en masse? Would that be considered an illegal strike? The prosecutors will sue him for this, which of course, he doesn't care about, because his mandates up in May, and this case won't see the light of day for a few years at least. By then, Gordo will have been lynched by the moderates of the party, and someone else will be there having to deal with these messes.

I had a hearty chuckle today listening to Rafe Mair and Gordo talking about his 80 plus contracts at 0,0, and 0. Just how many of them were negotiated in good faith? And how many of them were the result of holding a gun to the head of the union workers, thteatening to put them out of work if they didn't accept massive cutbacks to benefits and wage freezes? And speaking of benefit cutbacks, those cutbacks HAVE affected those people who's benefits are paid for by the employer.

Why's that? For one thing, the 50% increase in MSP premiums in the case of the company I work for, came right out of the owners pocket. I work for a company with approximately 600 employees. It roughly cost the employer a half million dollars a year more for just our MSP. Then you factor in the unfair pharmacare changes, and the elimination of a wide variety of services covered under MSP (physio, chiro, massage therapy, vision etc.) and our extended benefit plan comes out of their pockets, not ours.. that added another quarter million dollars to his health care costs.

3/4 of a million dollar increase a year in health and welfare costs in an industry that is hyper competitive, where an increase of any amount to your customers could result in you losing your contracts, and having to close your doors. Yes I'm fortunate that my employer bears the costs of these increases, but it infringes on his ability to compete, and if his ability to compete in the market place is made harder by a governmental policy that's inflationary in nature, it's hard to go to that employer and negotiate wage increases to keep up with inflationary items such as fuel, food, groceries, housing etc.

I would also question how much MSP premiums actually go for towards paying for health care. How come other provinces don't have premiums and their system is on par with if not better than ours?

Kegler - what happened to the cancer clinic that the NDP promised to the people of Kamloops - it has yet to be built - would you consider that a broken promise.

What about the elected hospital and schools boards that the NDP fired while they were in office.

The NDP had ten years to get rid of MSP premiums and didn't - like tutition fees they froze them despite costs going up.

You stated that you work in a competitive enviroment - don't most of us who work outside of government fall into the same boat - wouldn't your competitors also have had to pay the increase and what did your boss/owners do with the business tax cut that the Liberals also gave to business shortly after getting elected.

My pharmacare threshold has gone down under the new plan since it is income based and would you agree that Jimmy Pattison should have to pay for his prescriptions rather than get them free simply because he is over 65.

In pertaining to my work environment, the answer to your question about other employers in the sector having to pony up for the increased costs of MSP premiums and health and welfare costs is that the majority of companies in the sector of employment in which I am engaged simply don't pay it. Its up to the individual to cover their own medical, dental and extended health benefits, or they are on co pays.

My point is that those increased costs to my medical and health care benefits impeded my ability to gain a wage increase at the bargaining table that would keep up to the increased costs in today's society, including fuel, groceries, insurance, and basic living necessities, while allowing my employer to remain competitive. As for the fair pharmacare system, my threshold went up. And isn't equal treatment and access to health care for all citizens no matter how high or low your income level the substance of our health care system?

As for my boss/owners tax cut and what did they do with it, well they more likely than not pocketed it, not that I really care what they do with their personal finances, as I am more interested in the business aspect of my dealings with the company. As for what did I do with my so called tax cut, I watched it get pissed away thanks to increased user fees and costs related to the occupation I am involved in. Not too mention the 1/2 percent increase in sales tax that recently was repealed, the 3.5/ltr gas tax to pay for highway infrastructure in the north I believe, higher costs to go camping, user fees up the ying yang, and so on and so forth.

I would gladly give back my tax cut, in exchange for the 4.7 plus billion dollars this business like government added in 3 years to the provincial debt, something the NDP couldn't even accomplish on their best day. Ohh that's right, they've paid back 1.4 or 1.7 billion of that thanks to higher than expected resource royalties, and the breaking of contractual law and labour relations theories dating back to the industrial revolution..

In case you doubt my figures... in 2001-02 a deficit of 1.135 billion, in 2002-03 a deficit of 2.66 billion and in 2003-04 a deficit of 959 million. So in 2001-02 rather than engaging in prudent business like behaviour, which would be cautiousness, this government shot itself in the foot by cutting its revenue streams by 25%. Thus creating the financial chaos that have ensued since.

As for the economic turnaround, I still hold to the fact that interest rates are at historically low levels, and that commodity prices are high. When the NDP was in power and enjoyed windfalls in resource revenue, Campbell and his gang scoffed at it. Yet now we're supposed to put it up to "prudent fiscal management???" Here's a question for you regarding the economy. What happens if interest rates go up 4 to 6 points or higher. What effect on the housing market would that have. I surmise that there are alot of people leveraged to the nuts with mortgages on open rates that couldn't sustain a hit like that.

The cancer clinic in Kamloops. I thought I had forgotten about that! You mention a good point dmb, it was one of Mike Harcourt's election promises that the BC Medical Assn was dead set against, and once into office, he relented and went their way. It was a promise that was ill-advised in the first place. Which is sort of reminiscent of the Pacificats, where the problem administratively and politically was an initial cost estimate that was unduly optimistic.

On firing school boards, I think the biggest mistake the NDP made was not firing the Surrey board! And the leaky condo affair should have resulted in several municipalities being placed in trusteeship for a conspicuous and expensive refusal to perform their building inspection duties. Such as Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond, to name three small examples.

It frightens me that people like you are amongst our children. Your BCTF organziation is willing to pay 9 year old kids "Union" wages to further your own greedy politcal cause. Your wage increases caused what you decree, and now you pay children to try and solve it for you. You see nothing wrong with that. You insult those teachers who do. You are a disgrace to your profession.

Come on Larsen, where is the scripted letter.The only script I see comes from your continual rants and lies, all furbished by the Fiberal party.

"And isn't equal treatment and access to health care for all citizens no matter how high or low your income level the substance of our health care system?"
If so why are WCB claims allowed to use private clinics for there treatment not available to the general public. Perhaps the NDP supporters in this post can answer that.
Also as I stated above the NDP had 10 years to get rid of MSP premiums and didn't - why - was it because they needed the money to finish the Island Highway - screw Rick Doman out of cutting rights - screw Carrier lumber - screw up the Trade and Convention center - pay for the fast cats.
Awaiting a response.

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