Winds of change

The atmosphere at work yesterday was of higher morale than I've seen in years. A lot of members feel that Mercier manipulated #'s and scenario's in order to deceive the public and the media.

Strict gag orders and code of conduct rules prevented many from being able to get some truth out there.

My personal opinion is that with change comes hope. At least opportunity to work toward a better deal and workplace. The old regime didn't seem to have the ability to grow, communicate or accept criticism or suggestion. The fluff was all there but clear evidence of dismissal of such ideas was far more prevalent.

There is a sense of break in the dark cloud that has loomed above us for 5+ years. One can only hope that some sunlight will manage to creep through.

It is my hope that a change at the top will permit the members to embrace change and accept some of the responsibility for the present state. With resent bygone - a better attitude going forward can only help us all.

Cheers and thank you.

  • refbump

Mercier out as OC Transpo boss

A stunning restructuring at Ottawa City Hall was announced by city manager Kent Kirkpatrick Wednesday, with OC Transpo GM Alain Mercier being booted from the job.

Replacing Mercier immediately will be former public works GM John Manconi, a well-respected bureaucrat among councillors.

Kirkpatrick said Manconi has experience rebuilding a senior management team, looking after front-line morale and having a good relationship with the union.

The city's reorganization means the transit department, through Manconi, will report to deputy city manager of operations Steve Kanellakos instead of deputy city manager Nancy Schepers.

Schepers' branch is being renamed "planning and infrastructure" and she will oversee Lansdowne Park and other real estate partnerships.

Larry O'Keefe will become acting general manager of public works.

The executive of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279, which represents drivers and maintenance workers, expressed relief on the removal of Mercier.

President Garry Queale said he felt bad someone lost a job, but he believes all of Transpo's problems led back to Mercier.

"His best just wasn't good enough," Queale said, adding it felt like he was "pissing in the wind" when dealing with Mercier.

Asked how his membership would be feeling today, Queale said "ecstatic."

First message in 2012

It has been a while since I’ve surfaced or written anything. I needed a break from it all. I wanted to step back and understand everything before writing again. My mission statement was received by many people and each reaction was different and interesting. That being said, I would like to take the opportunity to wish each and every one of you a Happy New Year. Being a new year, gives each of us the opportunity change, try new things and make a difference. I for one intend on 2012 to be a better year and I hope that I can make a difference.
In this most recent booking, I have switched to relief work. I hadn’t done reliefs since my oldest son was a toddler. There are several reasons why my family decided we should try this new schedule. So far it has been a very positive change for us. Obviously this is not for everyone and all family situations are unique and need their respective necessities addressed. I have noticed that the atmosphere and camaraderie at night is significantly different than those that are present during the daytime. There are several reasons for this, which much I understand. What I find noteworthy however is that being witness to good teamwork, communication and manners helps create a better workplace.
Things absolutely have to change at our workplace. We are ALL well to aware of that. The problem, as I see it, is that there are too many agendas, too many individuals, too many personalities and way too much resentment. I sincerely believe the only way to enact change for good or bad is to somehow get everyone on the same page. The only way to empower our UNION membership is to get on the same page, to communicate and to make our members a valuable asset.
I realize that some of my sentiments are not well received, I understand that and I understand many of the reasons for that, but the reality is that I want many of the same things that each of you want. I want the ability to be well paid for the professional services I offer. I want to be able to enjoy quality time with my family and those that I love. I want a safe, harassment free and enjoyable workplace to be provided to me. I want the ability to protect and care for my spouse and children through insurance, benefits and competitive salary. I want to feel as though what I do is valued and important. I want to be able to do my job and follow policies and procedures without feeling the threat of suspensions or worse – media harassment. I want to be able to have a schedule that, when on time, it is safe and within possibility. I want to be able to have the dignity of using facilities at the end of a trip without being harassed or rushed unrealistically. I am personally competitive, I always have been, so most of all I want to be the best Bus Driver in the system. I aim for this and encourage everyone to adopt the same goal. In the end, we as a TEAM can only benefit from such a mentality. As I have said, if we could somehow all be on the same page, then our VOICE would hold far more water and we would then have the ability to effect change.
This next point is the one that will make me unpopular. On the first read, most will likely be enraged, but please read it a few times and give it a chance. Try just to understand it and allow it to be a possibility. I apologize to those that disagree; I sincerely think it may help.
When I say we need to all be on the same page, that includes management and even council. It is evident by years of resentment and bickering that we as a membership will not be able to force management to effect these changes. The line has been in the sand for a long time and sides are clearly divided. Something has to give and my suggestion is that we the membership give a little. If we were to get on board *categorically with management’s plans and strategies then we as a service OC TRANSPO would at the very least be one. Being one entity, on the same page and performing the “system” in place by management would either make things run smoother or it would be a bust. The only true way to know if it works – is to try it. This doesn’t demand much. It is really just doing what you do now, but with a smile, a little extra effort. Follow the schedules *to the letter. Don’t do overtime, just work what you are scheduled or PERMITTED to schedule. Do not trash talk the company, the managers, the councillors’ or the system. Just run it the way they manage it and do it with a customer service mentality just as they have asked us to do. SAME PAGE – the changes will have to come. Eventually the customer service mentality will tilt the public opinion scales in our favour. Eventually we will become people that our community will want to have around and we will no longer be the scourge, media magnet stain on the City that we are portrayed to be in our local media. As it stands now, we are both on one side of a fence, with pent up resentment and frustration and throwing useless stones at each other and as a company, a service and public necessity we are getting absolutely nowhere!
Years ago when I started, the senior men told me how bad this job was. How it had taken such terrible turns and that it was not a good workplace. I remember saying to myself that these old fools have no idea what the “real world” is out there right now. They have no idea how hard I was working for $12/hr prior to getting this job. Roughly ten years have passed and I can’t help but notice many of my peers still rip the company the same way and warn junior employees of the hardships ahead. I can’t help but wonder, with the large interest in the job, are we not becoming the same bitter old fools and not realizing some the hardships others face in the workforce today? Perhaps it is time we appreciate what we have and strive to improve our value in order to protect it and to be part of what improves it.
The following is an analogy that I liken to our situation:
I look at our membership as a hockey team. We are a mixed group with lots of veteran players some middle of the pack guys and plenty of new rookies. None of these groups have the same interests and none of them have the same needs. The veterans are just finishing up their time, they have little to no interest in change and just want to make sure that when they hang 'em up their pension and benefits will see them and their families through. The middle guys – they still think they have a shot at the bigtime, they want to be important, and they want to see the TEAM get better. They want the public to perceive them well and they want to enjoy the rest of their career and possibly enjoy perks along the way. The rookies want to see change, they want to make this a better team but realize that the team isn’t so bad really. There are a lot of great qualities on the team and if only the Vets and Middle guys would compromise a little then possibly this TEAM could achieve great success.
Management is management and coaching, the vets and middle guys are really jaded at the endless bag skates and drills run by our coach. We are tired of the SAME system not working and we are sick of the negative attention from the fans and media. Some of us are still willing to put in the work but somehow we need to see “what’s in it for us” examples. The willingness and ability to put trust in the direction from above is gone. The rookies believe, for the most part, the middle guys are a mixed bunch and the Vets have had their ice time cut along with their value being questioned and they aren’t willing to compromise. Trust in the coaching is at an all time low and the few if any think that the current direction can fix the problem.
HOWEVER the reality is that we all want the same thing. The coaching and management want to be the ones that bring this City the Quality Service and Transportation that it deserves and demands. This current group want to be the ones that achieve this – and whether we are willing to admit it or not – they want to do it with THIS TEAM. At some point we have to get on the same page and buy into the plan. We have to all work hard and give that little extra. Then and only then will the Coaches trust us and trust our insight. Only then will the changes and suggestions we offer have the chance to become reality.

I have many doubts about the current management and their system but I have come to terms with the reality that I can’t do anything about it alone. I need all of my brothers and sisters to be on board with change and I truly believe that we have to give in order to get. If we as a membership helped the current management team achieve huge success in the public – I have little doubt that we would be rewarded for our efforts. Simply being able to be proud and appreciated is reward enough for me but for those that need more – it is worth a try. We need to change for each other, our future and for our families.

Thank you and Happy New Year. @op4change Azte Byud on Face book
  • cre47

Another example of the failure of the so-called "Optimization" (or in other words "massive cuts")

Kanata commuters fuming after bus no-show
CBC News
Posted: Jan 11, 2012 8:00 PM ET
Last Updated: Jan 11, 2012 7:58 PM ET

Commuters who work in a Kanata industrial park say they are furious after an OC Transpo bus scheduled to drive by their workplace has left them stranded two days in a row.

Hans Liem said he left his office at Entrust Technologies on Innovation Drive at 5:20 p.m. on Monday to catch the 169 bus scheduled for 5:38 p.m.

After it failed to appear, he waited in the cold for the next bus, scheduled to arrive at 6:11 p.m.

"It never showed up," said Liem, who said his body was shaking and his fingers and toes were freezing as he waited in vain.

He walked to March Road to catch another bus — Route 93 — scheduled to come at 6:35 p.m. But it didn't arrive until 7:08 p.m.

It wasn't until 9 p.m. that Liem got to his east-end Ottawa home.

OC Transpo apologized for the inconvenience and said it was working to ensure customers along Innovation Drive received their scheduled service.
'It's completely unacceptable'

But the next day, Liem said the bus again failed to show up.

"This is completely unacceptable. It's crazy," he said.

Sevenge Safarova, also works in the area and waited for the buses that failed to arrive. She made the same walk to March Road, but by then her husband had driven all the way from Merivale Road and rescued her.
  • cre47

Transit commissioner rates OC Transpo a ‘seven or eight’

Transit commissioner rates OC Transpo a ‘seven or eight’

By David Reevely, The Ottawa Citizen December 27, 2011

OTTAWA — OC Transpo rates a “seven or eight” as an organization, says international business consultant and transit commissioner Justin Ferrabee, though it gets a couple of points for its plans and potential.

Ferrabee is a former vice-president of Calian Technologies and now managing partner of Totem Hill, an Ottawa-based consultancy specializing in corporate transformations. He’s worked from London to Singapore, with leviathans like Phillips and Unilever, and even with local councils in Britain, but never so closely on anything transit-related. The former Westboro resident who now lives in West Carleton applied to join the transit commission earlier this year because he’s excited about light rail and how it will change the city.

“The learning curve has been steep,” he says in an interview at an Elgin Street coffee shop (decaf at 11 in the morning, with a bit of sugar). “Probably steeper than I expected. I had to learn about transit, of course, and I had to learn about the city and the commission and the technicalities of that.” He takes the bus three or four times a week, he says, between his own travel and scouting problems or quirks of the system he wants to see for himself.

Like the other three transit commissioners who are not city councillors, Ferrabee was appointed and then thrown right into the controversy over $22-million in service cuts, called “network optimization.” City council had set the amount of the cuts; the transit commission had to agree on how to make them. It was a big test for the commission, since a major reason for creating it and including non-politicians was that a committee of city councillors had a hard time cutting any routes at all, ever.

“That was a very good process, I thought,” Ferrabee said. “There was a lot of consultation, and that resulted in changes to two-thirds of the recommendations.”

It’s a sign that OC Transpo listened, he says, and that’s something that the transit company has to keep doing to build public confidence and also for top managers to rebuild their relationship with transit workers who don’t trust them.

“You need three things. You need leadership, you need engagement — and you have to really listen, or you’re not really engaging — and you need flexibility, so you can adapt to the things people are telling you,” he says.

Riders are right that buses downtown are too crowded, he says, and that some routes were cut back too hard. The plan is to put $5.5 million into solving the worst of the problems, starting in December, but the public needs to be convinced that the company and the commission take the situation seriously.

Ferrabee finds Transpo general manager Alain Mercier and his senior managers “competent” but acknowledges that “people manage up differently than they manage down” and he doesn’t know how Mercier handles his staff.

The transit service has had a rough time lately. The much-publicized confrontation between an OC Transpo driver and an annoying passenger — with the driver’s yelling and swearing caught on a cellphone camera and posted to YouTube — are bad for the public’s view of OC Transpo, and the way management handled it produced an angry response from OC Transpo’s biggest union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279. Building confidence and trust, Ferrabee says, is a matter of “little incremental things over time. But it’s fragile. You can lose it very quickly with even small missteps.”

But, he says, he’s worked with organizations big and small, unionized and not, and he’s seen a lot of troubled companies. “One thing I have not seen is any workforce that, at its core, doesn’t want to do a good job.”

Transit commission chair Diane Deans and Mayor Jim Watson have been pointedly doing small things to build a relationship with ATU 279 and its members, Ferrabee says, and that’s at least a start.

Meanwhile, he’s optimistic about improvements that are coming to the transit system. Light rail eventually, but also smart-cards that’ll make payment easier and save OC Transpo money (scheduled to start being sold in the spring) and improved tracking of bus locations for riders (behind schedule but due in the next few months). “These things are going to make a big difference.

He and the other non-politician commissioners have rarely opened their mouths in public meetings since they took office in April, though Ferrabee says he’s been more vocal behind closed doors, where the transit commission talks about the details of union contracts and he feels more at ease applying his skills. “But I’m getting more comfortable and I’m getting more ready to bring things forward.”

For instance, Ferrabee worries that OC Transpo isn’t paying enough attention to new fuel technologies, like natural gas. “It’s not sexy. It’s not sexy at all. But I think it’s important and could be a problem long-term.”

The city looked at non-diesel buses a few years ago but rejected them as too expensive and uncertain, particularly considering the massive expense of switching over its fleet and maintaining two kinds of engine at the same time. But now, says Ferrabee, “Fuel technologies are changing. The economics are changing.” The city locks in fuel contracts to hedge against sudden price spikes but that doesn’t protect it from long, slow, steady rises. When those come along, it’s in a sense money being spent for nothing.

“We can do this network optimization and save a lot of money, and then away it goes again buying fuel,” Ferrabee says. “You don’t get anything more for it.”
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
  • jcl_8

York Region Transit Strike - Now Day 51

For those who are unaware, York Region Transit (just north of Toronto) have been on strike since October 24. Today marks Day 51, and their labour disruption will now surpass OC"s strike back in 2008-09.

Various CFRA talk show host (particularly Steve Madely, Lowell Green and Rob Snow) have been real proponents of privatization/outsourcing operations of transit to private contractors as a way of reducing cost and eliminating labour disruption. They should take note that York Region Transit has FOUR private contractors operating their transit system. THREE OF THE FOUR private contractors are offline during this labour disruption.

Here is the link:

(no subject)

So, this evening on the way home with Oscar the baby strapped to me and laden down with bags, my shoulder popped out (this is a chronic thing that just happens to me sometimes). I was talking with some friendly baby-woodgie-ing people on the #2 a little before 6, and reached to put up his sleeping hood and felt it go. It wasn't too bad, so I thought I'd see if it just slipped back in if I relaxed it as much as possible. No such luck, and so at the end of the route, I told the driver my shoulder had popped out and I might need a little time and maybe a hand with my stuff while I put myself back together.

The driver pulled over to the time-stop around the corner, called in, offered an ambulance (I wasn't quite ready for one), asked if I could stand (I managed), and was sort of reluctant to do any sort of manual intervention (there must be a "don't touch the rider" policy, which is probably a good thing most of the time). He phoned in again to tell someone he would be running a little late, and helped me get buckles and straps undone on a messenger bag, a backpack, a coat and a baby, stood around and talked to me while I popped my shoulder back in (it's a lot easier when I'm a little distracted and when I'm not wearing 50 pounds of gear and baby). Oscar slept through the whole thing — pop out around Preston, ride to the end of the line, chat, unload, sleep on the cooperative seating, let me pop in, put him and everything back on. The driver was patient, methodical and friendly through it all, and fended off a possibly grumpy dispatcher all the while. So, for all the unhappy or odd OC stories out there, I thought I'd add this to the Internet. Thanks, Mr. Driver, and happy holidays!