Sunday, 18 December 2011

Alain, Part Deux

"Alexa said...
I disagree with much of what you say in regards to Alain Mercier managing his position well. He is directly responsible for the tremendous dissatisfaction of his employees. The scheduling remains abhorrent to most of the drivers and management has shown a total lack of interest or willingness to accomodate their employees. Hence the antagonism continues to increase. This is a sign of significantly bad management when so many are under undue stress because of ridiculous schedules and numerous drivers cannot meet their time expectancies without foregoing their breaks or having to speed unnecessarily. I would be interested to know how many have had to take stress leave because of the work conditions. I certainly know of a couple of drivers who felt they were on the verge of a breakdown. It appears to be that OC is under abyssmal management."

I received a few responses similar to this one from a few drivers. Folks, I get it. I drive these schedules too. We lost a very good thing in arbitration when we lost the ability to assemble split shifts. After that, our union refused to participate in assembling our work as they protested the subsequent bookings in the dispute over the arbitrators language. The run cuts all seem to have been assembled without our input because up until the clarification of the arbitrators language, they weren't. What I'm getting at here is this: There is more blame to go around for the worst of our complaints than a simple finger pointing at management. As a driver, I'm upset with our union for what appears to be complete aloofness about the run cuts and scheduling while they protested the bookings. I'm upset with management for assembling runs that start at Merivale garage and finish at Place D'Orleans 12 hours later, and pay 7h30. But, I'm mostly upset with the arbitrator for dragging his feet for two years while the main issues twisted in the wind. As a taxpayer, that last part is a double-whammy. I paid for that arbitrator to make a decision, and he consistently screwed that up allowing for two interpretations of his ruling, which IMO is the principle reason we have the disgruntled attitudes towards our current scheduling.

On that note, it's easy to think that this scheduling issue is a new thing that the Mercier regime has created. It isn't.

Our current scheduling is comparable to many similar sized transit properties. I've done the research, after receiving a complaint about a post I made before my blog was vandalized. I used to think we were getting the short end of the stick in comparison to other cities. Our pay is lower, yes. But, our scheduling complaints are similar to most of the drivers I talked to in 5 other cities. The contentious issues are all centered around running times, spread, hours worked, pay guarantees, and run cuts. It sounds familiar because it is industry wide. When something like this can be demonstrated to be an industry standard, it become apparent that management is doing what all other transit managers are doing.

Ask yourself the following question: "Do I believe that Alain Mercier wanted to cut $20M from his own department?"

To pin all of our scheduling complaints on bad management is to ignore the city council's decisions, the budget, the tax payer, Larry O'Brien's role in the strike, Andy's gaffe, the media,  the rest of our industry, and how all major transit operations are run. Driver complaints about scheduling are industry wide, and we are not in the worst position of the properties I spoke with. (Call the local in Montreal for an eye-opener) Scheduling complaints are the #1 issue not only with transit drivers, but also general freight carriers and airline pilots. Why do I bring that up? Because the comparables suggest that dissatisfaction among drivers in various jobs stems from the job itself.

Further to this, Mercier's tenure began in 2007. KPMG had identified scheduling as one of the principle factors contributing to the murder of four employees at OC Transpo in 1999. The report defined the poisoned workplace that existed prior to 1999, and scheduling was quite prominent.

Why do I bring this up? Because scheduling angst is a preexisting condition at OC Transpo and will exist long after Mercier is working elsewhere, not an evidence of a new mismanagement.

When I brought up and posted something positive about Mercier, I knew I was taking a risk with some of my readership. I attempted to demonstrate that current management has done some very positive things for drivers and passengers. I'll stand by those words, and defy anyone to disprove them.

We all know what the problems are at OC Transpo, and yes, I could write a few pages on that topic. But that's what everyone else does. Constructively, how do we fix those problems? Dwelling on a scheduling issue that has been dragging on for 30+ years simply doesn't advance our position, does it? That's why I don't write about it. I can't fix the scheduling issue because the taxpayer wont let me. Whining about it here doesn't help. Neither does the ignorance of whatever positives come out of the current management regime. We have not been working with management on our issues, we seem to be constantly working against them. That strategy has not been working well for us thus far.

We need to recognize the positives when we see them in order to diffuse this acerbic relationship we have with our employer. We need to recognize that we work in a global industry, and that our problems are not unique enough to categorize our operation as being poorly managed. This dysfunctional relationship with management simply cannot help us.

It's time for a new approach.

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