At the moment I think I’m engaged in some of the hardest work I’ve ever had to do – what with promoting an agreement that is not uniformly popular, and engaging in conversations for 6-8 hours a day with union members from all different areas of the federal government workforce. Not only am I talking, but I’m listening too, and some of what’s being said isn’t very nice.
The anonymous emails and youtube video are probably the worst – those that accuse the bargaining team of being disingenuous, stupid, or in cahoots with the government. Face-to-face people never get quite that dirty, but often the anger our members feel about the government (their employer) gets directed at their union reps, and that’s the frontline I’m unfortunately on until the end of the month.
But it’s not all like that, and I’ve had lots of different kinds of conversations over the last week that are interesting to me. I’ve heard from members who are the sole income earners in their households because of the recession, I’ve heard from single mothers who are in terrible debt because they can’t make ends meet with their paycheque in the city, I’ve spoken to young term workers who are glad that there will be changes that support them in obtaining fair treatment in the workplace. The naysayers to this collective agreement come every time as though they are the majority opinion, but in fact I think our workplaces are divided more evenly right now, and that each person who is affected by this agreement is taking the time to consider seriously the various outcomes of accepting or rejecting the offer on the table.
Which is really the point – that our members take the time to weigh out what is on offer, and whether or not they are willing to face the possibility of legislation or strike should we reject. Not that those are guaranteed outcomes of course, but given our history they are distinct possibilities that I believe most people would rather avoid in this economic climate.
Of course, I could be wrong, and we’ll see what the members do by the end of this month. I’ve got a minimum of eleven more meetings to go before this thing is done one way or the other. And in the meantime, I’m not taking personally any of the attacks. I just hope that people remember we all have to work together afterwards.