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The Legal Playing Field Everything I needed to know about the law I learned on the softball diamond


Posted in Baseball, Collective Bargaining, Ontario Government, Strategy, Uncategorized

These days the concept of ‘Money Ball’ is ubiquitous.   

Even the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team wants to play money ball.  Perhaps that is the answer to nearly 50 years of frustration for Leaf fans…having the team switch sports.

The ‘Money Ball’ concept evolved from the mind of baseball guru William Lamar “Billy” Beane III., GM. of the Oakland Athletics.  Year in and year out, Mr. Beane gets more bang for his buck than any other major league baseball team and manages to put a motivated, entertaining and high performing squad on the playing field.

Now the Ontario Provincial Government needs to play ‘Money Ball’ in its collective agreement negotiations with its own workforce and the broader public sector.  But does the Government have the instincts and creativity to accomplish quality results?

The thing about collective bargaining is that you never fool the other side, … and certainly not without dire consequences.  You obtain a viable contract and good labour relations between the parties by bargaining fairly and consistently and engendering respect for your bargaining positions even where those positions are difficult to swallow for the party opposite.  In such circumstances you need to show the other side that there is mutual gain to be had from signing on to the tough positions you espouse.

The Ontario Government has been very public about its bargaining strategy.  ‘No wage increases unless savings can be found elsewhere’ in the relationship between the parties.  This sounds like hardball, but, in reality, it may be more like 3-pitch lob ball, where everyone is bound to hit the ball and where there are no strike outs … ever!  Is this a ‘Money Ball’ recipe? I don’t believe so! Certainly not on it’s own.

Can the Provincial Government achieve ‘labour peace’ while at the same time attaining its highly publicized goal of eliminating the Provincial deficit by Fiscal Year 2017-2018?  Yes, it can.  But not by way of smoke and mirrors.

This is the time for tough but fair negotiations.  The public sector unions know that the Government has a serious deficit problem.  But, they also know that the Government has a majority in the Legislature and does not face the threat of defeat at the hands of the Opposition parties … for a very long time.  The unions want to assure their members of some degree of job security and that their hard earned benefits are not about to disappear in their entirety.  By the same token the Government wants labour peace and wants to demonstrate that it is a good manager of the public purse.

My advice, to the Provincial Government, reduce the wage and benefit costs absolutely in this round of bargaining, and resist the temptation to just hold the line.  That will not be good enough. This is not the time for half measures and political or public relations shell games. If the Government misses the chance in this round of bargaining they may never recover during the balance of their mandate.

But how can these difficult objectives be accomplished?

Remember the secret to ‘Money Ball’ is a motivated, high performing team on the playing field.  Accordingly:  1. It’s time for more ‘pay for performance’.  2. It’s time for real incentives for finding cost savings in the provision of public services. 3. It’s time to align public and average private benefit plan provisions on a go forward basis. 4. It’s time to meaningfully turn over/reduce the public sector through ongoing, not one time, programs to support attrition.  

On balance, it’s time to deliver much more for much less.  That is a winning formula. That is ‘Money Ball’!

If The Government can’t produce perhaps it’s time to summon Billy Beane to consider a consulting gig in Ontario. After all, as taxpayers we have $12.5 Billion reasons to seek a new playing field.