A reader writes

While commenting on my last article which voiced my frustration with the ongoing strike of trash collectors, A. Meringue suggested:

“Suppose your boss had agreed to give you a pay rise, but kept putting it off, what would you do? ”

Very simple. I get a new boss.

“If a third party (the public) was depending on you, and you weren’t around to make the deal, whose fault would that be?”

So your reasoning is that you shouldn’t only try to hurt your boss, you should also hurt his customers too?  This when they’re ultimately your customers as well.  What is the gain?  Is it just to ensure he feels it?

Personally I believe the people deserve to know why a strike is occuring, and especially when it is going to happen.

What if I threw such a tactic at my workplace, just as you suggest. I decide I’m fed up with my boss and his delays so I’m not going to turn up for work just to make a point.  It doesn’t matter that many of my colleagues are counting on me to make a deal that will be crucial for them.  Am I more important than everyone else?  Is it fair to not be a team player and throw the game just because I’m not getting my way?  This as opposed to giving your colleagues some notice to make arrangements and preparations for your absence?

What if your heart surgeon decided that he was fed up with not getting the raises he was promised the moment he was due to operate on you? Is your life not important enough? What if every doctor decided it at the same time? Are many lives not important enough?

Trash pickup & ferry service may not be life and death, but it should be realised that everyday people count on these public service individuals for their daily lives and thought it may not be as important to you, it may be very important to them.  What makes you more special than everyone else? 

Every service makes a difference and though it may not always seem like it, many greatly appreciate what those employeed in the public industries do.

Thats why it would be great if we knew their troubles with regards to pay and they took action in a manner that did not hurt their customers so poorly if they have an inssue with management. It means that when they return to the job the next day, instead of garnering disappointment and lack of confidence in the service they provide, they have garnered support. 

The customer is the most important part of the equation. He/she is where the money (or support) ultimately comes from. Without money, there is no raise. Without money, there is no job.

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12 thoughts on “A reader writes

  1. You are indeed fortunate if it is that easy for you to get a new boss. If you were employed by government, there isn’t really another government that you can go and work for (although that’s not such a bad idea, now that I think about it).
    Anyway, you basically have made the same choice by withholding your labor, albeit your method is permanent, as opposed to a temporary arrangement with a strike or a work-to-rule. You then go on to say it would not be fair to your fellow employees to take a day off, but what loyalty are you showing your fellow employees if you up and leave? True, they can all do the same thing. Is that your solution, let all the garbage collectors resign?
    You believe that “everyday people count on these public service individuals for their daily lives”, and I have to agree with you. The point I was trying to make is that it is wrong to jump to conclusions about who is responsible.
    I think the public should be aware of what the issues are as well, but both sides are tied by an agreement that requires that this is kept confidential. I think this can only harm the ‘workers’ view, as the public are not appraised of the real reasons. If the situation is that the employers/managers are dragging their feet, I take it you would still blame the ‘workers’, because of the inconvenience caused. That’s OK, we are all entitled to our opinions.

  2. A. Meringue,
    Who said anything about getting a new boss being easy? Quitting one’s job and embarking on a new one doesn’t happen overnight, especially if you don’t have any savings to fall back on. It can often take months of planning to ensure things go smoothly and by no means is it easy but if thats what it takes to be treated the way you feel you deserve then by all means pursue it.
    Get a new boss can mean many things. Just because you’re employed by government does not mean you can not venture out into the private sector. Nor does it not mean you can’t rally to have a new boss elected. There are options but pursuing them may require hard work.
    “Anyway, you basically have made the same choice by withholding your labor, albeit your method is permanent, as opposed to a temporary arrangement with a strike or a work-to-rule. You then go on to say it would not be fair to your fellow employees to take a day off, but what loyalty are you showing your fellow employees if you up and leave? True, they can all do the same thing. Is that your solution, let all the garbage collectors resign?”
    You miss my point entirely. My point is that you should give notice before you take action. If you’re going to take a day off in protest, give notice that you’re going to do so and a timeline for your boss to correct things before you do. Same thing if you’re going to quit. That is what is fair to your colleagues and customers.
    You say the agreement requires the discussion to be kept confidential. Does it also stipulate about strikes and work-to-rule situations? Also, does it stipulate that that the BIU cannot announce a week or two before hand that they are having difficulties with management and intend to strike beginning on whichever day until it reaches a resolution?
    This instead of me putting my trash out and coming home to wonder why it wasn’t picked up and leaving it out there thinking I missed something about the collection being delayed a day. The rats and cats tear all through it and make a mess that I have no intentions of cleaning that easily could have been prevented by the union announcing that they wouldn’t be collecting the trash, of which I would have either kept it inside or found some means of disposing of it.
    “If the situation is that the employers/managers are dragging their feet, I take it you would still blame the ‘workers’, because of the inconvenience caused. That’s OK, we are all entitled to our opinions.”
    I completely disagree. I beleive the workers deserve to be treated fairly and paid reasonable wages for what they do. If this is not occuring than by all means I support a strike even if it means a month of no service. That is, assuming if that strike comes with notice so that I can make alternate arrangements.

  3. Denis,
    Maybe this is the elephant in the room, but how come in these two extensive pieces have you made no mention of economics? The basic fact as I see it is that the workers are asking for more than supply and demand would dictate.
    The paper had them asking for $26 an hour. Now I don’t mean to be classist or anti-social but I have to say that that seems like an awful lot for a zero skill job. If the workers thought they were worth more and had greater skills, they should test thier assumptions in the open market. Bermuda’s market may be one of the most open in the entire world, so its a pretty good place to give it a try.
    If they aren’t willing to do so they should realize that by any international standard their pay is more than fair, they enjoy extensive benefits as government workers, essentially have a job for life, health insurance, holiday time and apparently face no repercussion for their illegal actions (striking without notice).

  4. Adam,
    The reasoning for why I havn’t focused on economics with my posts is that it hasn’t been confirmed that the $26 demand is the actual reason for the strike.
    You raise a good question, is $26 an hour a worthy price for trash collection?

  5. Forgive me for thinking you had suggested it would be easy to get a new boss. I got this impression from your answer of what you would do, “Very simple. I get a new boss.”
    I agree the trash collector doesn’t have to work for government. But the end result that we all want here is our trash collected. If all the trash collectors went to work in the non-governmental market, then that doesn’t solve the problem. It will open up trash collection to the private sector, and I am not against that per se, but does it answer the question of the managers dragging their feet? My position from the outset was that I did not know what the problem was, but perhaps, just perhaps it was because a deal had been agreed, and had been reneged on. The actual situation may be quite different.
    You suggest that the union should have given the appropriate notice, and that is what is causing the problems with the public. I think that the public would appreciate this more, but I might leave it to others to address the pros and cons of wildcat strikes and works to rule. It does seem though that we jump to conclusions about the lazy, ruthless workers/unions and the pained but hard-working, benevolent boss. I just think this is not the case in every situation.
    Adam suggests that $26 an hour or $54,080 per annum is an excessive price. I work that out to be approx $880 a week in take-home pay. Rent I would conservatively suggest would eat up between a third and a half of that, and food about another 20%. That doesn’t leave a lot for other things in life. I have often wondered how some people could live on that level of income. I couldn’t manage on that. Could you?
    What is the cost of the trash not being collected?
    So what is a fair salary? If you go by supply and demand, maybe the private sector could do it more efficiently, and it would not surprise me if this is the present Government’s long-term view. I refuse to contemplate whether or not anyone in Government knows anyone in the sanitation business.

  6. Well, we all knew that the international business people feel screwed by the PLP. Know we know the working Bermudian also feels screwed by the PLP. Expect more of the same between now and election day, as the PLP’s vested-but-neglected-interests use their leverage to get attention.

  7. Virtue says that “now we know the working Bermudian also feels screwed by the PLP.”
    Um, how do we know that? It may be true, but it would be wrong to divine that from anything I posted.
    Although I have worked in the present workforce for many, many years, most people would consider my position as managerial. I do not work in government. I do not work with or for the trash collectors. I am not a member of any union, nor am I a supporter of any particular political party. I just feel fair is fair.

  8. Some councils recognise that trash collection is a lightening rod service. One they have to get right to generate any level of customer/voter satisfaction. It’s the barometer for all sorts of customer/citizen/voter opinions on whether the council can run itself.
    Bermuda is lucky to have two collections a week and trash collectors who pick up things not in a trash can and who sweep up messes. Cost cutting and de-manning can mean that level of service can get cut.

  9. A Meringue,
    Fifty Five thousand dollars is a lot of money for a no skill job no matter how you look at it. Plus, this is a net take home. The gross is far more, and there are other non-financial benefits to working for the government. Debating the level of a fair salary is impossible, so don’t try. I think I’m worth more than I get paid for the obscene amount of hours I put in, does that mean that my wage is unfair? No, its the product of supply and demand, why should trash collectors play by different rules than I do simply because they can inconvenience the public at will.
    I wasn’t suggesting that the trash collection services should go private, but that the individuals who think that they are worth more should venture into private employment to seek better salaries.
    Seeing as Bermudians generate more trash per capita than New York city, and probably top ten globally, I think the Government should cut costs by reverting back to a once a week collection. That way Bermudians could take some role in minimizing their waste.

  10. Hi, Adam,
    You’re the one who raised the question of a fair salary when you said, “If they aren’t willing to do so (test their assumptions in the open market) they should realize that by any international standard their pay is more than fair.” So why now tell me that “Debating the level of a fair salary is impossible, so don’t try.”? How come you get to debate what a fair level is when I can’t?
    Anyway, I was not aware that ($26 an hour times 40 hours per week = $1,040 times 52 weeks =) $54,080 is a net figure. Please show me where I have got that wrong. I took the $1,040 per week and deducted 4.75% for Payroll Tax, another 5% for Pension and a further $80 a week for health to get my $880 net figure. I hadn’t made a deduction for social insurance which I think is a further $25 a week. If government employees don’t pay these, but still obtain the benefits of them, then I take your point.
    Trash collecting may well be a low-skill job, so I could probably do it, but I would not really want to. I think the majority of people would not want to do it either. The people who do it, they probably don’t want to do it. Trouble is, someone has to do it, and so you have to pay a wage that takes that into account.
    All of this does not detract from my original hypothetical point of managers agreeing something and then reneging.

  11. In an overemployed economy like ours it is easy to get a new boss… however because people are paid their marginal value, they can’t make $26 an hour without some skill, so if they want to earn that then they should get some skills (and the government should subsidize that) because then everyone is better off because we have more skilled workers (who add more value and are paid more), fewer people competing for the bottom-end jobs (so those wages go up), and the rest of us get more services cheaper.
    Yay allocative efficiency!

  12. Um, can you explain that to me again, please? You say the trash collectors should learn additional skills and move on to better jobs. That would mean that fewer people are competing for the bottom-end jobs so the remaining trash collectors get higher wages. I’m with you so far. But how does that translate into getting services cheaper?

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