Think City addresses Whistle blowing and the Vancouver Civic Strike

Why Whistleblowing is Good for Vancouver

The following article is reproduced from the September 11 edition of the Think City
Minute
.
The
City of Vancouver and its three Canadian Union of Public Employees
(CUPE) locals are back at the negotiating table this week, and not a
moment too soon. Like everyone else, Think City is hopeful the points
of dissonance keeping the two sides from reaching an agreement can be
resolved.
Among the more curious aspects of the now 54
day-old municipal stalemate is the stall-out over language around
employee protection for reporting wrong-doing at city hall. For those
on the outside looking in, it's hard to see what the debate is about.
Whistleblower protection, the name usually given to such protective
measures, seems to be a no-brainer for the interests of municipal
accountability.
As this week's Georgia Straight
http://www.straight.com/article-108595/cupe-the-city-and-whistles
points out, in cases where employees have blown the whistle on
organizational or governmental wrong-doing the perils of not having
whistleblower protection have included harassment, intimidation, and
loss of employment.
Whistleblower
protection is far from a perfect solution but it does provide a modest
baseline of security. This type of security is an important component
of the system of checks and balances that are in place in our civic
institutions. In fact, it's surprising this sort of protection isn't
already part of the city's human resources practices.
And
so, CUPE Local 15, the union that represents the city’s inside workers,
wants whistleblower protection embedded in the new collective
agreement, proposing language similar to that used by the City of
Surrey – which Vancouver's own city council has already endorsed.
However,
senior management suggest it was waiting for Mayor Sullivan and council
to meet this fall to develop a policy that would apply to all staff,
not just unionized employees. They further suggest that it would be
“inappropriate” to proceed on this prior to council’s autumn
deliberation.
Something here doesn’t add up.
Consider
the fact the same senior managers and human resources staff that would
be developing the policy for council to review have also known this
whistleblower issue would be coming up. They could have prepared for
this.
Second, and more to the point, Council will have to
approve whatever contract gets negotiated – which gives them the
opportunity to review, debate and ultimately approve any such language.
If anything else, the current contract negotiations and bargaining
allows the City of Vancouver to get a head-start on a process that is
long overdue.
While the idea of a universal whistleblower
policy for all employees is commendable, it certainly does not need to
be a sticking point in the current negotiations. If nothing else,
stalling on this point makes city council and senior management look
suspect – something that is damaging both in the short and long term.
The city should recognize the present labour
negotiations represent one of the best opportunities to improve the
checks and balances of accountability. They can start by building
whistleblower protection into the new collective agreement. Then, if
they want to enhance the language or policy, or roll the policy out to
exempted staff as well, so be it. There are ways to account for such
changes in the collective agreement.
Given the pressures
associated with development in the ramp up to the Olympics, having
something like whistleblower protection isn’t a bad thing at all – in
fact, it is necessary. It will help to promote accountability at a time
when there are innumerable questions being asked about the way in which
planning and development decisions are getting made.
The
term whistle-blowing comes, we are told, from the English bobbies that
blasted a pea-whistle to stop wrong-doing. Blow the whistle on
something egregious in your organization or government and you have a
bit of protection.
It’s hard to believe that this is one of the key issues prolonging this
strike. Ironically, perhaps if there was such a form of protection
already in place, we might have a better chance of finding out why the
city’s senior staff is dragging its feet.

July 25, 2007
Strike Raises Debate About City's Future
Vancouverites
are navigating their way through week one of a municipal strike. And so
far, the shut-down of city services has managed to provoke more
questions than anything else.
The halting no-shows of
the City of Vancouver's human resources team
at the negotiating table, the “crashing” of a city press conferences by CUPE negotiators, Mayor Sullivan's preference for Cambie St. bus tours over bargaining, and the debate over whether or not citizens should receive rebates for services not-received have all left piles of unanswered queries alongside the overflowing bins on city streets.
For
many, the strike has prompted speculation on how, when and why the
priorities of Vancouver get set the way they do. The strike is an
abrupt push into the world of civic inquiry, courtesy of closed pools,
reduced library hours and 150-plus city sites surrounded by placard
carrying city workers.
Think
City is hoping for a fair and speedy resolution to the labour dispute.
At the same time, while the city and union are struggling to get back
to the bargaining table, our organization has spent the last couple of
months undertaking some planning and negotiating of our own.
Welcome to Dream Vancouver and the next phase of Think City…

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