The union, the college, the Premier, and me.

If you know me you know I have an endearing/annoying tendency to talk about whatever is most important to me at any given moment. I like to think of it as open source/collaborative/social networking kinda vibe. I don’t tend to write or blog about the fluff in my life.

Right now, there is no fluff at all, it’s all pretty serious.

At the risk of Doocing myself or angering my union brothers and sisters, I am going to write about the current likelihood of a strike at NSCC, and my views about it.

You know, it has been a real struggle to write anything at all. It is hard not to either sound like a self centred jerk. Or piss people off who you respect and support. Or talk yourself out a job…. And yet, here we are, I am almost for sure going to be on strike Tuesday next week.

I have a picket sign in the back seat of my car, for god sake. A picket sign!

As I tweeted the other day, I am equally frustrated with the union, the NSCC, and the government.

First up, I am not loving my union. The NSTU so far has not been really impressive, focusing on the public sector pattern and the implications for the rest of the public service.

The NSTU has their guns focused firmly on the Province. They are sitting on the same side of the table as the College, looking at government to hand over the money. The NSTU keeps referring to us as “public servants.”

This drives us college instructors crazy. CRAZY.

Now is not the time to dissect the NSTU, their motivations, their actions on our behalf. I voted to strike, for the record. I support the local, though my support is more nuanced than they might like.

Secondly, I am frustrated with the College. We are negotiating with a Board and senior management that either did not plan appropriately, or failed to make the political case for adequate funding to government, all the while planning expansions and launching new projects.

We are college instructors, we work for NSCC. Joan MacArthur-Blair is my boss, not Darrell Dexter.

I have gotten emails from my President telling me they don’t have the money, and the operating budget has already been cut.

What I would like more information on is what concrete austerity measures the college is taking in areas aside from salary. What steps are being taken to cut expenses around travel, around PD, around catering, around managerial compensation?

I know I don’t know and I don’t think other staff know how the cuts in the operating budget are impacting the college and where the college has cut to adjust to the new economic reality.

Right now, the raw numbers show our provincial grant has increased by 10.6% since 2007. Most staff, myself included, do not understand how that money is spent and how it is constrained by program commitments to the province.

I have asked for more information on how the college is adapting and what else is being delayed, downsized or cut entirely, but I have not received anything concrete from college leadership.

It would be nice to know what is really going on, that staff are not the only people and budget line being asked to sacrifice.

Finally, as an unreconstructed supporter of the election of Darrell Dexter’s NDP government, I am pretty frustrated with my friends in government and cabinet.

Mr. Premier, I know you want to break the pattern, and I elected you to do that. We need to balance the budget, and this is more important than a raise for me, or any pet project. We are too far in debt as it is. The future of the province, my children, and my public sector pension depend on you balancing the books.

There is no way the public sector is getting more than 1% in 2010/11 and I applaud you for it.

That being said, Brother Darrell, you know damn well that we are not asking for 2.9% for next year, we are asking it for the current year. You got 2.9% this year, 2009, and so should I.

I accept that our pay year starts in August, yours in January, and I believe the public sector starts in April. So it is a bit of comparing apples and oranges. But, my friend, if you play with the math, we should get 1.9-2.2 percent this year, to be fair, given everyone else already got their raise.

What if you turn the tables on the NSTU? Say this “Folks, I can give you 2.9% in 08, 2% in 09, and 1% in 10.” Make Joan and NSCC pay half of the 1% new offer. Establish the pattern for 2010 today. The NSTU staff won’t want to take this, but the college staff sure as heck will.

My conclusions?

The NSTU will fight for 2.9%, to the death, and then the other unions will claim that the pattern for 2010/11 is 2.9%.

The Province sees this, and will fight to the death to keep us to 1%.

The NSCC senior management will not cut anything to pay for another 1%, and they will blame the province. Meanwhile, we will lose students, credibility, and morale.

The college staff will be on strike a long time, ostensibly for our legitimate need for a comparable raise to everyone else, but really because we are not important like public teachers and health care workers, while labour and government are happy to fight their proxy war through us little guys.

There are no winners here… though clearly, my poor students will be the losers if this drags on more than a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, I really think we will be on strike until the snow falls.

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