Friday, 24 February 2012

Someone Left The Windows Open

Every spring I look forward to that first day when you can open up all the windows in the house, and let Mother Nature breathe her wonderful energy into the nest with a burst of clean, cold air. It always feels like a new home should, open and inviting, inspiring smiles and the search for something to do.

Around the garage today, that is exactly how I felt. The past two days have opened the doors and windows at the garage, and it is as if many employees are feeling like there is a new season approaching. You can see it on their faces, in the way they walk, and in how they respond to you. Something is very different this week.

I have read all of the media coverage of Mr. Mercier's sacking. I have even taken the time to read some of the comments under the articles.

I have read the emails you folks sent me after I commented on this whole story. The range of emotion expressed was really interesting, and in some cases, a little scary.

The email about my quote that appeared in a few news articles... all I can say is I'm sorry about how that looked out-of-context. I don't want to kick Alain Mercier while he's down. That quote was an observation, not a euphoric victory speech.

I can't honestly be impartial to the "Fire everyone, privatize OC Transpo" type emails. I'm sorry, but I find the logic to be simpleminded and obtuse. After the backlash of riders complaining about cuts to under-performing routes, I can't imagine how these folks think Laidlaw or FirstBus could mine profits from philanthropy, while finding 1500 bus drivers to work for less than their trucking divisions. But I digress.

I can however respond to the folks claiming to be drivers who brought up my previous blog entries In Defense of Alain and Alain Part Deux .

My positions on living within Mercier's tenure and living within the new regime of Mr. Manconi are pretty much the same. We need to find a way to get along, drivers and managers. Dysfunction sucks. I wasn't having fun listening to how bad the job was each and every day. Somebody needs to start positive dialog to affect positive change, and that is why I write this stupid blog.

Let's face a little reality here. The idea that the general manager is the steering rudder of the organization holds true, so long as we understand that the rudder is held in part by a political commission, and navigated by a city council. There are a pile of desks that the official papers have to cross before Mercier (or now Manconi) gets to sign them. The commission agenda is what matters to transit users. So what real change is accomplished by firing Alain Mercier?

I understand what city council went through in trying to get straight answers from Mr. Mercier. If you ask bus drivers, you will find that the overwhelming majority of them simply didn't trust his numbers as he tried to convince us to accept major scheduling changes. Unlike council, we had the tools to do the hard math. We could see that the promises had enough english on them to sink the cue ball with backspin.

From there, the distrust grew. Drivers rejected two contract offers out of distrust, and barely passed the third stop-gap measure just this past fall.  Whether it was a contract offer or a city council briefing, drivers felt that the numbers were always a little too slippery to hang onto. I am not sure the membership would have ever signed their name to any contract under the Mercier regime that contained any meaningful changes to language. Rightly or wrongly, that is the truth of the situation.

So the biggest change I can foresee is the City's ability to get a long term contract done with ATU local 279. Like it or not, that is a HUGE positive change for everyone, including the public.

A change of focus has opened up the windows of 1500 St. Laurent. Spring is here, and the change is a welcome one.

Mr. Manconi, I wish you the best sir. I appreciate the letter you wrote to us, and you are welcome to this driver's input at any time.

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