2010 Olympics Business News for the Vancouver and Whistler
regions of British Columbia. Plus, Alberta, the rest of Canada, Washington
State, Oregon, Idaho, Montana & California
Garbage Strike Hinges on
2010 Olympics Negotiations
It's September 7, 2007, more than fifty days into Sam's Strike,
and most Vancouverites still do not really appreciate how much the 2010
Winter Olympics impacts contract negotiations.
It's not surprising that VANOC, city hall, and local news media don't
want you to connect the dots, but I thought that CUPE would have underscored
it in big bold red letters long ago. Unfortunately they haven't - probably
because they mistakenly believe pushing too hard will make them look anti-Olympics.
Keeping the connection low-key puts them at a disadvantage. While Vancouver's
fly and rat infestation grows, and the pubic stews, local news media prepare
to zero in for the kill.
Local mainstream news media owned by CanWest (i.e. The Vancouver Sun,
The Province, The Courier and Global Television) now have a financial
interest in telling the Olympics side of the 2010 story. The
came out of the closet and announced on June 25, 2007 that they are now
officially paid by VANOC to boost the Games.
The garbage strike will be just one of many strikes to negatively
impact our community over the next couple of years in the ramp up to 2010.
Look soon for major disagreements in transportation, hospitality, and
law enforcement sectors. These groups are watching the garbage strike
closely because it will give them insight into how they should negotiate
with the city and Olympic organizations when their turn rolls around.
Already, many months ago in fact, the Vancouver police department, with
the help of local mainstream news media, have been priming us to spend
more money on our police force. Stories pop up regularly about how dangerous
our region is, and how Vancouver's police force is understaffed, underpaid,
and under-equipped. Get ready for a big fat bill regarding new members,
weapons, and anti-riot and crowd control gear. Am I going to complain?
Not likely considering Vancouver has one the highest crime rates in all
It's not a coincidence that so many people here have dogs. I know from
personal experience that a noisy aggressive dog is the absolute best deterrent
to a home burglary.
What you see happening in Vancouver in 2007 happens in all Olympic regions.
It might not happen specifically to the waste management sector, but very
similar if not completely identical circumstances occur respective of
all unions impacted by the Olympics.
Local newspapers like The Vancouver Sun and television news companies
like Global Television pretend that they don't know what is about
to transpire, but you can guarantee that the big bosses know exactly how
this is going to play out, and they knew about it long ago.
They don't want to tell you though because it will negatively impact their
profits if the community pulls ahead in the competition with VANOC and
their 2010 sponsors like RBC, HBC and Rona who collectively buy millions
in advertising from them.
Watching how the waste management, outdoor workers and library strike
evolves is a good lesson for small and midsize business owners because
it demonstrates how Olympics organizations pit themselves against the
community. It also illustrates quite clearly that SMBs must consider Olympics
organizations just like they would any other competitor. If librarians
and garbage workers won't allow themselves to be pushed around by, and
they have the foresight to compete with the Olympics, you can do it too.
Pay close attention.
You might have noticed recently that some local news media are trying
to turn public sentiment against CUPE. You might have also noticed that
CUPE is not backing down, although if unions don't start using their websites
more effectively local news media might cultivate momentum that is impossible
to stop. Picketers shold have included shorter URLs on all
their picket signs and connected more effectively online with Vancouverites.
When local news media loads their big guns, CUPE will not only have strike-poor
members to contend with, but also an increasingly frustrated public. Union
members have done a pretty good job using the internet, but a large portion
of it is amateurish, and in a few cases they even use what I am sure is
unlicensed music in their YouTube videos, which means they are ripping
off union musicians. Scabs are scabs, and when the spotlight is on you
this is not the message you want to send.
The IOC deals with strikes in all Olympics regions and you can rest assured
that they have been preparing VANOC CEO John Furlong and Mayor
Sam Sullivan for events like "Sam's Strike" for a
very long time. Strikes like this are simply a cost of doing Olympics
business. They know it, I know it, and now you know it too, so act accordingly
and apply what you see happening here to your own business when the time
comes - scaled back appropriately of course.
I've maintained from day one that our community should come first, then
the province, then Canada, and if there is anything left, VANOC
and their sponsors like VISA, RBC, HBC, Rona and the rest of them can
fight over it.
If you're frustrated with Sam's Strike keep in mind that waste
management, parks, and library workers are members of our community. They
are simply not allowing Olympics organizations to run roughshod over them
like all too often happens in past Olympics regions. Normally, the construction
industry would be the first major head on union collision with VANOC,
but as you know, most of the construction labour here is not organized,
which means that we can import unskilled foreigners and pay them $7 and
hour to build Canada Line and other Olympics facilities.
Over the long run, and in this very specific Olympics-related instance
(see excerpts below),
if union members are treated fairly, the better it is for our community,
so carefully consider this when you see your local newspaper and television
news broadcaster align with VANOC and Mayor Sullivan. If
you push to end the strike prematurely, you are voting for the
IOC. Vancouverites need fair resolution, and according to CUPE,
it is not even close to being fair in early September of 2007 when this
article was published.
Remember too that respective of Olympic cult, you are either with them
or against them. It's the only way VANOC operates, and you should
too. Supporting union members does not mean you are anti-Olympics. It
simply means you are standing up for your community. OlyBLOG.com is
NOT an anti-Olympics website. We are pro-Olympics with a
twist. The sporting aspect of the Games is great for youth, however,
mismanagement of the Games should concern you.
For those who still doubt what I write here, read the excerpts below from
my book, Leverage Olympic Momentum. We began researching and writing
it in 2003 and published it in 2005. Ask yourself how I could accurately
predict so much about 2010 so long ago, but still our local news companies
have never given you a heads up. Whose side are they on? Hypothetically,
even if I was only half right, which I am not because I haven't missed
a major call yet, whose side are news media on when you consider that
they refuse to even consider this information and report it so we can
make up our own minds? Ask yourself what else they are hiding, and why?
You are the community. People who work in union environments are also
the community. I am not a union member, and never have been (other than
the musicians' union over thirty years ago), but I know why it is important
for our community to look at this situation very carefully and with a
fresh perspective. Times change, and this is one of those times.
Unfortunately, based on local mainstream news media's actions, or lack
thereof, newspapers sit on the other side of the fence writing 2010-biased
inflammatory headlines as they count their Olympics profits.
Sam's Strike should have ended weeks ago.
Our community should be happy. Olympic Spirit? Hardly.
Random"union related" excerpts from my book,
“In an Olympic environment a work slowdown upsets the delicate balance
of all time-sensitive milestones. It is not enough that just the big event
starts on time, all the milestones leading up to it must also be reached
in order to allow the project to move to the next level. The timeline
is so sensitive it is often impossible to make up for lost time without
severely impacting the budget. Consequently, the best thing a local Olympic
organizing committee can do is to negotiate an agreement of cooperation
with [unions] the construction industry. If they do not succeed in the
early stages after winning the Bid everything gets pushed back with sometimes
devastating consequences. (tw2)
There are a number of tools available in order to keep things moving on
schedule, such as “no strike” clauses and award-based escalation pay clauses
that will encourage labour to reach milestones. When they meet these milestones
workers are rewarded with hourly bonus payments. If these milestones aren’t
met they are penalized with incompletion fines.
As you can well imagine, it’s difficult to create a system that respects
and integrates union workers. Many facilities used for Olympic events
are already in operation and staffed with union workers. These people
cannot be displaced just because the Olympics come to town. They also
have to work side by side with paid Olympic staff and volunteers. Considering
that a ‘unified team’ philosophy is the modus operandi, it can be challenging
when you have to combine this eclectic mix of workers. Union workers have
very specific pay scales, benefit packages, and rules and regulations
negotiated in their agreements. Everyone falls under one umbrella, but
they all play by different rules. Juggling cats doesn’t begin to describe
the challenge. (tw10)
Early in the process an umbrella union should be established in order
to deal with the details of the integration well before particulars of
the regular paid staff and volunteers are addressed. If you can’t easily
come to terms with the unions it can seriously throw off the plan down
the line. A ripple effect can create a complex situation where contract
negotiators have to keep going back to rework previously agreed upon contracts
and negotiations. It is not only economically unfavorable, but it can
also create political problems. One of the challenges in dealing with
unions is that they are very aware of any situation that might undermine
hard won concessions, or create a precedent for long-term change. Olympic
partners are governments. Concessions unions fought for could be challenged
by the same governments, and no union will allow itself to take a step
back just because the Olympics came to town for a few weeks. Some of the
matters are extremely delicate, and even a perception of change can have
severe long-term repercussion. Pay scales and job security are sensitive
issues. Unions are hesitant to give in to competitive employment bodies
that may or may not have union affiliations. Losing members is a real
concern and not something they are willing to risk. Conversely, non-union
organizations contributing to a communal labour pool also have to contend
with union conscription. Both sides have much to lose. (tw11)
It’s not only loss of members or pay scale that unions are concerned about.
They worry too that innovative ways of doing things could have long-term
impact. Developing a more efficient way to perform a task over the short
term of an Olympic event could easily be used in the future to phase out
a job. Needless to say, you can see how a union could wield an upper hand,
especially when they are already integrated into a facility used for an
Olympic event. In reality, they are not going to move down the scale.
This often means non-union companies have to abide by union rules. Olympic
organizations recognize that unions are usually well run organizations.
Independent companies are often less structured, which makes their employees
harder to train and manage. There is an element of professionalism that
cannot be ignored. To complicate matters even further, [Olympic] sponsors
are often called upon as suppliers, and the dynamic this creates makes
it hard to manage a unified team environment. When a sponsor is also used
as a preferred supplier, not only could they be providing a financial
contribution, but also products, and a union or non-union workforce. The
company might have a special deal to offer services to their employees
at a fixed rate, plus supply 10,000 meters of fencing if it happens to
be in their product line. The company could negotiate a fixed term contract,
but if the fixed rate which is based on a specified number of hours doesn’t
add up to the standard union scale, someone will have to make up the difference.
As long as a cooperative atmosphere is maintained solutions can be found,
but if negotiations are derailed between the sponsor/supplier and the
union it can get chaotic. One sure way to drive costs up is to drag out
negotiations. This can set up a domino effect where no one gets trained,
assigned, or paid in time because contracts are still in the negotiation
How crazy and confusing can it get? In one Olympic region spectators were
not buying as much food as everyone expected. Consequently, the catering
sector had to fire 1,000 workers. People were upset. They’d been hired,
trained, uniformed and now they were being unceremoniously booted out
the door. As usual the overall Olympic churn rate was high, so instead
of firing everyone they put the word out via email that catering had a
surplus of staff and through last minute scrambling and shuffling a large
portion of the staff was redeployed. The union bailed out those not placed
in new positions by renegotiating new salaries for everyone. They equalized
the hit and took the financial sting out of it for those left without
jobs. Eventually everyone who wanted to work found a job, but it took
a few days. Think of the last-minute chaos for a moment; first you threaten
to fire 1,000 workers, then you move them to another sector, but before
you do you have to retrain them, provide new uniforms and passes, and
expect them to perform like nothing is wrong. Supervisors and managers
need all the help they can get. (tw37)
Olympic events get derailed at the most inopportune times. In Italy for
example, it was announced less than one month before the 2006 Winter Games
that TOROC, the local Olympic organizing committee had finally made an
agreement with local unions that they would not strike during the Games.
The announcement was made on January 11, 2006 and Opening Ceremonies were
slated for February 10, 2006. Just imagine the panic and chaos generated
by leaving something this important to the last minute. What was the IOC
It’s not uncommon to have a dozen major disputes during the Games that
have the potential to shut down entire sectors, and possibly the Games.
Some of it is brought on due to poor planning, some due to negligence,
and sometimes due to Olympic policy of being too demanding. When thousands
of people have payroll problems and threaten to strike or quit it can
have a devastating effect. There is literally no tomorrow to wait.
The Olympics can be very disruptive for current service suppliers. Quite
often a strong union will help in managing this type of situation, but
if a union isn’t present it can wreak havoc. Many companies who currently
hold contracts for facilities go out of their way to service the Olympics.
It’s not out of Olympic spirit as much as it is to protect their interest.
In some cases unions can be helpful in recruiting merchandise workers
because it gives them an opportunity to introduce young retail workers
to an organized labour force. When young people have a good union experience
it stays with them and it becomes easier for unions to conscript them
in the future. (tw62)
When cost is an issue local jobs take a back seat. It’s too easy to send
work offshore and deal with the flak from local companies than it is to
try and stretch the budget to accommodate local manufacturers. The problem
is that the Olympic cult is so strong it can easily turn public favor
their way and overshadow initial public sentiment regarding the local
It is too difficult to gain lost ground once agreements are signed. Olympic
organizations shrug their shoulders and basically say, sorry, maybe next
time. Legally they are within their rights. Ethically, however, it is
a shrewd move driven solely by profit. The best way local manufacturers
can protect themselves is to show up early with a plan. They have to let
Olympic organizers know they are competitive and that they can deliver.
Part of their job will be to embarrass Olympic organizations and sponsors
into treating them fairly. It will not happen any other way. The internet
can be very powerful in this respect, especially when unaccredited international
media is watching.
It is not unheard of for local labour associations and unions to demand
that the government intervene. However, Olympic organizations are getting
smarter and now bring governments in as partners. When this happens conflicts
of interest arise and it becomes incredibly difficult to maneuver. Basically
a small manufacturer would be asking the government to rule on itself.
The best way to avoid this problem is to get in early and make sure the
process doesn’t advance to a stage where it is hard for the government
to overrule a legal decision. (tw65)
How difficult can negotiations with local Olympic committees and the IOC
become? Sydney 2000 is regarded by ‘some’ as the most successful Olympic
event in modern history, but even their local business community had to
fight unbelievably hard to ensure they were treated fairly by Olympic
organizations. The government and unions went back and forth for over
two years trying to get information from Olympic organizations regarding
manufacturing facilities, and a clear understanding of how they would
manage the overall merchandise production process. When the local Olympic
committee foolishly denied there was a problem it created more mistrust.
It was agreed by everyone well in advance that some manufacturing would
be outsourced overseas, but when unions and local manufacturers tried
to confirm specific information regarding how much and where, they were
stonewalled. In “The Collaborative Games” Tony Webb wrote, it was alleged,
deliberately or otherwise, the local Olympic committee shielded their
contractors from investigation regarding how their subcontractors were
producing merchandise to be used by Olympic organizations in Australia.
The concern wasn’t regarding the principal contractor. Instead it was
with the companies they used to subcontract the manufacturing. One specific
issue was over uniforms to be worn by workers. It might sound petty, but
uniforms represent a huge segment of the manufacturing process – 15,000
units regarding one issue alone. The local Olympic committee used a loophole
to sidestep the spirit of the agreement and when they were confronted
they denied anything was amiss. It literally took twenty-seven months
to come to an agreement fair to local manufacturers. The whole issue would
not have come about if local manufacturers had taken more of an interest
in the early contract negotiations. The kicker here is that after all
the wasted time spent arguing, and the tens of thousands of dollars squandered,
not to mention the bad blood spilled, the union never had enough funds
available to follow up regarding the information they finally gained concerning
the factories used overseas relative to the balance of articles being
manufactured. Quite simply, they won in court, but couldn’t afford to
make sure the rules they fought so long and hard over were being obeyed.
Ironically, the local Olympic committee had no incentive to monitor it,
so they didn’t. Ultimately, Olympic organizations came out on top again.
This situation would not have occurred if contracts between the local
Olympic committee and contractors were more transparent and if local manufacturers
became involved earlier. SMBs have to elbow their way in sooner.
Anytime you launch a new group of people into a new service the stress
is astronomical. But when you throw government intervention into the mix
it goes from insane to psychotic. Roadwork departments are managed by
local governmental agencies. They are often unionized and have a very
particular way of doing things. To ask them to deviate is like asking
them to cut off an arm. They take safety very seriously and move slowly
in order to protect the public. No harsh moves or radical changes. Unfortunately,
the Olympics demands radical change and is rife with chaos and confusion.
Most of the time they chase their tails.
Transportation unions have to negotiate carefully to ensure standards
are not lowered, and licensing procedures return to normal and have no
impact on future hiring and retention. Because of the added stress the
transportation industry is subjected to it is important to make special
efforts to keep morale up.
In Sydney, it turned into a long, hard, and bitter struggle, but at the
eleventh hour unions forced negotiations with the Olympic organization
and demanded they pay professional performers. The union representing
the performers fought relentlessly to convince, and at times threaten,
the Olympic organization. The controversy inadvertently developed because
the creatives within the ceremonies sector insisted on operating independent
of the Games from the outset. They knew the two ‘cultures’ would clash
if forced to work together. Once it was official they were operating independently
they weren’t tied in any way to standard operating procedures. Not including
design talent, 20,000 people were involved in putting on the Opening and
Closing Ceremonies. Unions weren’t asking that everyone be paid, but they
did expect that professional performers should be fairly remunerated for
Unions are also getting smarter because they realize that if they position
themselves responsibly they can boost membership in their organizations.
They also know that if they bully or cause work slowdowns or strikes the
community will revolt against them. They too have to act responsibly.
Remember, unaccredited media and the online world are waiting to pounce
like a mountain lion on a puppy.
Olympic organizations do such a good job hyping up the workforce that
many people forget humans can’t work at breakneck speed forever. The Olympics
promote a ‘cult-like’ strategy that fosters super human contribution.
Unions and workers are always concerned employers will use this super-human
condition later to negotiate lower rates and increased production. Employers
conveniently forget about the “once-in-a-lifetime” aspect of the sales
hype and take it to mean, ‘You have to perform in your job like this all
the time for the rest of your life.’ The danger comes when governments
create legislation that allows employers to adopt these changes full time
in perpetuity. Once employers have a foothold it is difficult for unions
to win back hard-won rights. Even very small concessions have serious
and long-term ramifications.
It’s estimated that an average volunteer will invest 140 hours of time.
If the event uses 25,000 volunteers (Vancouver/Whistler), it translates
into 3.5 million hours. And if you estimate the average union wage in
2010 at twenty-five dollars per hour it represents almost $9 million in
lost union wages when you trim the hourly rate back by twenty percent
. . . END OF RANDOM BOOK EXCERPTS
Please have consideration for the workers and their families in our community
and read between the lines of local mainstream news media reports. News
media sides with VANOC, not you, or our community.
Still thinking about voluneteering for 2010? Think carefully.
Olympics volunteering is not as cool as it used to be, or as cheap as
most people and companies think. It pays to look before you leap.
If you want the whole 2010 story, please read my book.
Talk to us before you talk to them ...
- the book
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CHAPTERS locations in Vancouver
Own the Podium?
The official creed (guiding principle) of the Olympics is a quote by the
founding father of the modern day Games Baron de Coubertin. He said, "The
most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part,
just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.
The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
The Olympic motto consists of three Latin words Citius, Altius, Fortius,
which means, "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." The 1924 motto is meant to encourage
athletes to embrace the Olympic spirit and perform to the best of their
No where does it imply that winning the most gold medals for your country
is part of the agenda. In fact it implies exactly the opposite.
The IOC maintains that it doesn't actively encourage countries to collectively
win the most gold medals, but on the other hand they also don't institute
anything to ensure that the Games are not turned into corporate money
In fact, IOC sponsorship and partnership business models encourage a win-at-all-costs
mentality. It is the reason they have doping, fraud and bribery scandals.
The IOC invites young people to compete in the Olympics using the original
Creed & Motto. But when it comes to delivering on the promise they
fall incredibly short.
The Olympics today isn't as much about sport as it is about money and
Priorities changed over the years and so too should their Creed &
If athletes go for the gold, and the IOC goes for the gold, and corporate
sponsors go for the gold, and governments go for the gold, and considering
that you will have to foot the bill for their gold, why should
you be edged out of the race?
Move to the starting line.
Own the Podium?
Own Your Home?
Real journalism consists of
what someone doesn't want published,
all the rest is public relations."