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Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Negotiations: Through a Glass Darkly

I'm still on the line, picketed the last few hours, had a few, shall we say, interesting conversations.

Somebody told me that the other night, in the middle of the night, the picket captains rounded up all the picketers and did a head count. Several dozen people were signed in... but the head count netted something like ten picketers. Probably people had signed in and forgotten to sign out (he wrote generously). I heard another story about a guy who signed in and went to see a movie. Man is that tempting. Tempting, but not really cool. To be fair, most of the people I know feel guilty about pee breaks. It's okay folks, take your pee breaks. No, not in the park. But ix-nay on the movie-nays.

The negotiations.

Drum roll, please.

I love the rumours. I keep hearing, this'll be all over when the hockey starts. This'll be all over when parliament is in session. This'll be all over when I get my novel written (okay, that was just me doing some wishful thinking).

Here's what I know about the negotiations from people who know a tiny little bit more about it than me. The negotiations have little to do with hockey, parliament and, um, novel writing. They have to do with the issues on the table and whether the two parties are happy with the language. The negotiaters try to keep external considerations off the table. The negotiating will be finished when both management and the union are happy with the language and not before. At no time will the union negotiators give us a contract to ratify until they are confident they can defend every single issue.

The pace of the negotiations is excruciatingly slow. (This is not news, I know). The reason it is slow is because lawyers are sitting at the table, poring over every single word. Before the lockout there was a clause in the contract having to do with military service. It was a clause that should have been rubber stamped instantly by management. Instead, they brought forth new language on it. Why? Just 'cause. That slows things down. They are apparently doing this with everything. And not just management... sometimes the Guild is doing the same. In fact, management has actually suggested that the Guild is deliberately stalling until hockey and parliament give them some leverage. This Guild denies this, of course. The fact is, nobody's getting paid out here (unlike the management negotiating committee). Members of the Guild negotiating committee are certainly not getting paid. No, what's happening is that both sides are trying to make the contract perfect for both of them.

Perhaps one can lay blame... a little. The lead negotiator for management is a novice, he's never done this before (hey, everybody's gotta start somewhere.) People sitting at the table for management are not the people that should be sitting at the table. Every time something serious comes up, the management negotiating committee has to check with senior management. On one occasion before the lockout, this necessitated contacting a manager in China. That added a few minutes, you may be sure. In negotiations between GM and the CAW the right people are sitting at the table. Why is that not the case here?

The atmosphere at the negotiating table is described as professional. These are real, live human beings trying to do the best they can under rather trying circumstances; every now and then both sides require time to cool off. But then they roll up their sleeves and get back to work.

Apparently there are about six major issues remaining. The negotiators refuse to speculate on how long it will take to resolve them, although job evaluation is one, and it's tricky. It has been said that negotiations are a process, not an event. A process that can be sped up or slowed down, sometimes on a dime. A breakthrough could happen next week... or next month.

The question still remains, why can't we work why they talk? No one has an answer to that one. And management has apparently made it clear that even if they come up with a deal for us to ratify, they won't let us back in until after the ratification.

Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the Guild negotiators have been reading the blogs. That's not to say that the blogs are any kind of a factor in the negotiations (let's get over ourselves, already). The negotiators have stopped reading blogs that are insulting (representatives of management have told me the same thing). I humbly suggest that we attempt to maintain an adult tone on our blogs if we expect to continue being read, let alone taken seriously.

I still have serious issues with senior management; just the same, I thank the members of both negotiating teams for their hard work and perserverence.

Stay the course.

Get us back inside.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

if the guild IS stalling in the hope that hockey and parliament will give them leverage, we're in even more trouble than i thought.
as i posted on a previous site, management has already taken it's lumps - the pmo isn't remotely interested in intervening, and hockey isn't going going to provide the pressure the guild thinks. a league that locked out it's players, is hardly going to slam the corp for IT'S lockout.
so if either side thinks it's got the upper hand - forget it. what we've got is a dying public broadcaster with 2 sides arguing over who should provide life support. i for one, am gasping for breath!

4:10 a.m.  
Blogger cbcworkerbee said...

They are not stalling. They are acutely aware that every day this is prolonged places the CBC and all our futures in greater and greater jeopardy.

10:50 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear CBC Employees

I probably should not be here but I am. I miss hearing you, seeing you. Please come back as soon as possible. I'll always be here for you. I love you.
Sincerely,
Canadian Citizen

1:04 a.m.  
Blogger cbcworkerbee said...

Aw schucks. :-) Believe me, we'll be back as soon as they let us.

9:41 a.m.  

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