To the Editor:
The City Council and my office have been fielding questions about the strike and our reluctance to comment about the issues which have led to it. I wanted to take this opportunity to make our reasons clear. We appreciate that the public have a desire to know about issues that affect them and the City in which they live, especially when it comes to something as important as a strike by the employees who provide the services which our citizens rely on every day.
The first important principle is that we believe that to minimize misunderstandings and provide the best chance of a successful outcome to this disruption, we should not engage in negotiations in the media. Every time the position of one or both of the parties is discussed publicly, our citizens and other stakeholders get a narrow view of the process and issues without the necessary context which has developed over months of bargaining. For example, some may wonder why the parties are not at the bargaining table all day, every day until the issue is resolved. The answer is simple, bargaining has been going on for months and the parties have reached a point at which one side feels that it cannot offer more and the other side is dissatisfied with that position.
Second, while the public has an understandable desire to know what is happening, we also owe it to them to conduct ourselves in accordance with the Labour Relations Act and not incur any unnecessary risks and legal costs associated with making irresponsible or premature statements. If a statement were to be misinterpreted, misquoted or if it violated the Act, the City could face penalties and our position at the bargaining table could be undermined. The legislation permits us to make certain statements, but during a strike, sensitivities are understandably high on both sides and a comment that may not be a violation of the Labour Relations Act may still give rise to time-consuming and expensive litigation that will do nothing to advance the position of the parties or lead to a better outcome. We feel that rather than risk incurring this unnecessary expense and complication, as well as the misunderstandings that can arise by commenting about only a portion of the overall story, we are all better off if Council does not comment other than to correct any inaccurate representations of our position. We are of the view that we should leave the negotiation and resolution of this matter to our professional negotiators who are entrusted with ensuring that the mandate provided by Council is respected.
We understand that this strike is unsettling for many and affects everybody who lives in this City. We are balancing the need to find a fair outcome with the need to be fiscally responsible with the funds entrusted to us by the taxpayers. One of the ways to find this balance is to avoid potentially inflammatory public statements and maintain the integrity of the bargaining process. The parties are obviously locked in a serious disagreement, but despite our differences, negotiations have been carried on in good faith by both sides and we want that to continue.