DRESCHEL: HSR absenteeism smacks of job action

Opinion Nov 02, 2017 by Andrew Dreschel Hamilton Spectator

There are two situations in which union employees use job actions to put pressure on their bosses.

The first is orchestrated by union leaders when the union is in a legal strike position.

The second rises organically from the factory floor as a way to protest working conditions or beefs with management policies.

The spiking absenteeism among HSR workers smacks far too strongly of the latter to be ignored.

In October, the absenteeism rate among HSR workers soared to almost 19 per cent compared to an already far too high 15 per cent the year before.

This unheard-of surge in sick calls, no-shows and long- and short-term disability claims is directly causing an abnormally high number of cancelled buses, desperate overtime requests, and now pitchfork-and-torch union calls for the dismissal of transit director Debbie Dalle Vedove.

The fact this is all taking place against a backdrop of "significantly" escalating union grievances and long-standing rumblings of poor labour relations only supports the notion that the present crisis is actually being driven by an unofficial job action.

It is, if you will, an impromptu finger in the face of management.

Coun. Terry Whitehead raised this prospect with Dalle Vedove at Wednesday's presentation on the service disruptions. "To me, it appears more organized than it is just a blip on the radar," he said.

Dalle Vedove responded that HSR data doesn't support that theory "at this time."

But Coun. Chad Collins came closer to the mark by asking what internal changes have taken place to cause an increasing number of workers to stay at home rather than go to work.

Dalle Vedove said she had something prepared for an in camera discussion on that but added, "I do want to say that what has fundamentally changed since my arrival at HSR is that we are holding people accountable."

Chair Brenda Johnson cut Dalle Vedove off before she could elaborate. But her response feeds the suspicion that this is as much about personalities and payback as it is about service gaps.

Dalle Vedove was appointed Hamilton's transit director in September, 2016, after the surprise departure of David Dixon. She began her career as a bus driver, spent 20 years working her way up at the Toronto Transit Commission, and came here after nine years as director of operations with Oakville Transit.

One of Dalle Vedove's prime marching orders was to bring chronic overtime spending due to absenteeism under control.

HSR annually plans for an absenteeism rate of eight per cent. But it hasn't hit that target since 2005. From 2010 to 2013, the rate hovered around 12 per cent but then began to steadily climb. The standard rate among other GTA municipalities is between 10 and 12 per cent, according to Dalle Vedove.

To be absolutely clear, HSR's current 19 per cent absenteeism rate represents "uncontrolled" absenteeism. That is, it doesn't include planned absences such as vacations.

During Dalle Vedove's early tenure, she restructured the transit department, moving three managers out and three new ones in. One of the ousted was operations manager Murray Hill, a Dixon hire and, by all accounts, a well-liked and respected boss.

That set union tongues wagging. It can't be a coincidence that bus service interruptions and, reportedly, union grievances began to swell shortly after Dalle Vedove's arrival. The backlash appears to have culminated in this week's sweeping call from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107 to fire the whole "incompetent" management team, beginning with Dalle Vedove.

There's always been a poisonous streak in management-labour relations at HSR. Over the years, issues of harassment, working conditions, budget shortfalls, funding disputes, declining revenue and ridership have all taken a toll and created an up-and-down adversarial relationship.

Depending on your point of view, it's either a crying shame or perfect timing that this noxious brew is on smelly display just as the city and ATU are asking the province to allow HSR to run the $1 billion light rail system.

Andrew Dreschel's commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495 @AndrewDreschel

DRESCHEL: HSR absenteeism smacks of job action

Opinion Nov 02, 2017 by Andrew Dreschel Hamilton Spectator

There are two situations in which union employees use job actions to put pressure on their bosses.

The first is orchestrated by union leaders when the union is in a legal strike position.

The second rises organically from the factory floor as a way to protest working conditions or beefs with management policies.

The spiking absenteeism among HSR workers smacks far too strongly of the latter to be ignored.

In October, the absenteeism rate among HSR workers soared to almost 19 per cent compared to an already far too high 15 per cent the year before.

This unheard-of surge in sick calls, no-shows and long- and short-term disability claims is directly causing an abnormally high number of cancelled buses, desperate overtime requests, and now pitchfork-and-torch union calls for the dismissal of transit director Debbie Dalle Vedove.

The fact this is all taking place against a backdrop of "significantly" escalating union grievances and long-standing rumblings of poor labour relations only supports the notion that the present crisis is actually being driven by an unofficial job action.

It is, if you will, an impromptu finger in the face of management.

Coun. Terry Whitehead raised this prospect with Dalle Vedove at Wednesday's presentation on the service disruptions. "To me, it appears more organized than it is just a blip on the radar," he said.

Dalle Vedove responded that HSR data doesn't support that theory "at this time."

But Coun. Chad Collins came closer to the mark by asking what internal changes have taken place to cause an increasing number of workers to stay at home rather than go to work.

Dalle Vedove said she had something prepared for an in camera discussion on that but added, "I do want to say that what has fundamentally changed since my arrival at HSR is that we are holding people accountable."

Chair Brenda Johnson cut Dalle Vedove off before she could elaborate. But her response feeds the suspicion that this is as much about personalities and payback as it is about service gaps.

Dalle Vedove was appointed Hamilton's transit director in September, 2016, after the surprise departure of David Dixon. She began her career as a bus driver, spent 20 years working her way up at the Toronto Transit Commission, and came here after nine years as director of operations with Oakville Transit.

One of Dalle Vedove's prime marching orders was to bring chronic overtime spending due to absenteeism under control.

HSR annually plans for an absenteeism rate of eight per cent. But it hasn't hit that target since 2005. From 2010 to 2013, the rate hovered around 12 per cent but then began to steadily climb. The standard rate among other GTA municipalities is between 10 and 12 per cent, according to Dalle Vedove.

To be absolutely clear, HSR's current 19 per cent absenteeism rate represents "uncontrolled" absenteeism. That is, it doesn't include planned absences such as vacations.

During Dalle Vedove's early tenure, she restructured the transit department, moving three managers out and three new ones in. One of the ousted was operations manager Murray Hill, a Dixon hire and, by all accounts, a well-liked and respected boss.

That set union tongues wagging. It can't be a coincidence that bus service interruptions and, reportedly, union grievances began to swell shortly after Dalle Vedove's arrival. The backlash appears to have culminated in this week's sweeping call from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107 to fire the whole "incompetent" management team, beginning with Dalle Vedove.

There's always been a poisonous streak in management-labour relations at HSR. Over the years, issues of harassment, working conditions, budget shortfalls, funding disputes, declining revenue and ridership have all taken a toll and created an up-and-down adversarial relationship.

Depending on your point of view, it's either a crying shame or perfect timing that this noxious brew is on smelly display just as the city and ATU are asking the province to allow HSR to run the $1 billion light rail system.

Andrew Dreschel's commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495 @AndrewDreschel

DRESCHEL: HSR absenteeism smacks of job action

Opinion Nov 02, 2017 by Andrew Dreschel Hamilton Spectator

There are two situations in which union employees use job actions to put pressure on their bosses.

The first is orchestrated by union leaders when the union is in a legal strike position.

The second rises organically from the factory floor as a way to protest working conditions or beefs with management policies.

The spiking absenteeism among HSR workers smacks far too strongly of the latter to be ignored.

In October, the absenteeism rate among HSR workers soared to almost 19 per cent compared to an already far too high 15 per cent the year before.

This unheard-of surge in sick calls, no-shows and long- and short-term disability claims is directly causing an abnormally high number of cancelled buses, desperate overtime requests, and now pitchfork-and-torch union calls for the dismissal of transit director Debbie Dalle Vedove.

The fact this is all taking place against a backdrop of "significantly" escalating union grievances and long-standing rumblings of poor labour relations only supports the notion that the present crisis is actually being driven by an unofficial job action.

It is, if you will, an impromptu finger in the face of management.

Coun. Terry Whitehead raised this prospect with Dalle Vedove at Wednesday's presentation on the service disruptions. "To me, it appears more organized than it is just a blip on the radar," he said.

Dalle Vedove responded that HSR data doesn't support that theory "at this time."

But Coun. Chad Collins came closer to the mark by asking what internal changes have taken place to cause an increasing number of workers to stay at home rather than go to work.

Dalle Vedove said she had something prepared for an in camera discussion on that but added, "I do want to say that what has fundamentally changed since my arrival at HSR is that we are holding people accountable."

Chair Brenda Johnson cut Dalle Vedove off before she could elaborate. But her response feeds the suspicion that this is as much about personalities and payback as it is about service gaps.

Dalle Vedove was appointed Hamilton's transit director in September, 2016, after the surprise departure of David Dixon. She began her career as a bus driver, spent 20 years working her way up at the Toronto Transit Commission, and came here after nine years as director of operations with Oakville Transit.

One of Dalle Vedove's prime marching orders was to bring chronic overtime spending due to absenteeism under control.

HSR annually plans for an absenteeism rate of eight per cent. But it hasn't hit that target since 2005. From 2010 to 2013, the rate hovered around 12 per cent but then began to steadily climb. The standard rate among other GTA municipalities is between 10 and 12 per cent, according to Dalle Vedove.

To be absolutely clear, HSR's current 19 per cent absenteeism rate represents "uncontrolled" absenteeism. That is, it doesn't include planned absences such as vacations.

During Dalle Vedove's early tenure, she restructured the transit department, moving three managers out and three new ones in. One of the ousted was operations manager Murray Hill, a Dixon hire and, by all accounts, a well-liked and respected boss.

That set union tongues wagging. It can't be a coincidence that bus service interruptions and, reportedly, union grievances began to swell shortly after Dalle Vedove's arrival. The backlash appears to have culminated in this week's sweeping call from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107 to fire the whole "incompetent" management team, beginning with Dalle Vedove.

There's always been a poisonous streak in management-labour relations at HSR. Over the years, issues of harassment, working conditions, budget shortfalls, funding disputes, declining revenue and ridership have all taken a toll and created an up-and-down adversarial relationship.

Depending on your point of view, it's either a crying shame or perfect timing that this noxious brew is on smelly display just as the city and ATU are asking the province to allow HSR to run the $1 billion light rail system.

Andrew Dreschel's commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495 @AndrewDreschel