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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another



The potential General Strike in British Columbia set for today is off. Campbell and the Liberals backed off their legislation imposing a retroactive wage rollback for non-medical hospital workers. It was a late night deal and one in which the government gave up very little.
The deal includes a cap of 600 further job losses over the next two years, and a $25-million severance package for affected employees. The union's work week will increase to 37-1/2 hours from 36, which will contribute a four-per-cent saving for the province. The balance of the savings will be determined through negotiations on monetary and non-monetary benefits.
vancouver sun
Campbell looked like hell as he pounded the union for "illegal labour action" and announced that "Breaking the law is not an option, it is never right." Unfortunately for Campbell, retrospective legislation is pretty suspect in itself.

For the moment the crisis has been averted and I suspect the Liberals will attempt to govern "as usual". However, the level of hostility to the Campbell government the HEU dispute revealed is likely to have some of the Liberal backrooms buzzing. The focal point of the anger is, deservedly or not, Campbell himself and with an election less than a year away, Liberal pragmatists will be wondering if keeping Campbell will seal a Liberal defeat.

It would be surprising if there are not a few polls in the field matching up Carol James with other potential Liberal leaders. Of course, those are somewhat thin on the ground. But political parties faced with significant popular opposition and a leader who has never fully recovered from his DWI conviction in Hawaii tend to start looking hard.

BC's labour movement with what would appear to be a requirement for matching moustaches has come out of the crisis looking firm rather than frenzied. By focusing on the nastiness of the legislation, Allnutt and Sinclair managed to mobilize their troops but avoid the casualties which a full on General Strike would have inflicted. Smart negotiating and smart politics.