Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Conflict of interest. Wazzat?

When football coach Jerry Sandusky recruited, groomed and molested boys, he continued for years because people around him stayed quiet. In 2009, Sara Ganim, then a 22-year-old writer for a small newspaper, sussed the importance of rumours involving the Penn State icon. Three years later Sandusky faced 30 to 60 years in prison and Ganim held a Pulitzer Prize. For the investigative reporter, it was not an easy path; she suffered frequent harassment.

Exceptional journalism requires courage, dedication and, sometimes, outrage. Perhaps as much as anything, a sense of right and wrong is the driving motivation. Seldom does a desire for financial reward stand behind a great story but, too often, cupidity is an effective barrier to reporting that serves the public interest.

In British Columbia, when political journalists place themselves in conflicts of interest by taking payments from groups with interests in the issues covered, they cannot report on conflicts of others. That might explain why you will not read elsewhere that the Labour Relations Board Vice-Chair Richard Longpre, who issued a decision favourable to the government side of the teacher dispute, suffers an obvious conflict. He had been at the centre of the class composition issue as Assistant Deputy Minister of Labour, when Gordon Campbell was Premier and Christy Clark the Minister of Education.

In comments on the article Delay, legislate, litigate, repeat, a reader asked if the LRB decision might have been "tampered with" in the common BC Liberals' style. When I examined Longpre's background, it was apparent that most of his consulting work has been on the employer's side of labour disputes. That didn't surprise but I was taken aback to find that in 2002, he was Assistant Deputy Minister of the Labour Department and very involved in issues that are the core of the Liberal's 13-year long dispute with teachers.

After the June 2002 resignation of a second arbitrator appointed to remove provisions of teachers' contracts, The Province newspaper reported,
"We have to get someone else and we have to move quickly," [Richard] Longpre [B.C.'s assistant deputy labour minister], said. "It's in everybody's best interests to know the terms of the collective agreements when they go back to work in September."
My response to the reader's comment on the earlier article is worth prominence.
The recent decision of the LRB was by Richard Longpre. He was first appointed to the LRB in 1985 by Bill Bennett's Social Credit Government (Labour Minister Terry Segarty). From an old LRB report,
"Richard Longpre graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1976
with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree, majoring. in industrial relations. He
joined Noranda Mines Limited where over the next four years he negotiated
collective agreements and co-ordinated labour relations policy amongst the
Noranda Group of companies in Ontario, the Prairies and British Columbia. In
1981, Mr. Longpre -joined the Mediation Services Branch of the Ministry of
Labour as a mediator. After three years with the Branch, he set up an
independent labour arbitration and mediation practice. In June 1985, he was
appointed Vice Chair of the Labour Relations Board of B.C. and has subsequently
held the positions of Vice Chair with the Industrial Relations Council and
Vice Chair with the current Board. Mr· Longpre resigned as a Vice Chair
effective May 31, 1996; however, he continued to serve on a part-time basis
until September 30, 1996.
It seems Longpre left Noranda, which was involved in potash, oil and gas, mining, etc. and joined BC's Labour Ministry about the time Noranda took control of giant BC forestry company MacMillan Bloedel.

In 1992. the Canadian Film and Television Producers Association hired Richard Longpre to serve as its new vice-president of labor relations for the B.C. branch.

In 2001, Longpre became Labour Minister Graham Bruce's Assistant Deputy Minister. As Liberal ADM, he handled the strange situation in 2002 that saw appointments of a number of arbitrators in the class composition dispute. The final arbitrator that the Labour Ministry appointed in this matter (they discarded the usual practice of parties jointly agreeing on arbitrator selection) was Eric Rice. He did the what the government wanted but his work was tossed by the BCSC in early 2004.

In 2005, Longpre was back in the private sector as a consultant. He worked for trucking companies in a dispute with container truck drivers and for private health services company Sodexho. In 2006, he negotiated for Securiguard in a dispute with airport guards.

Public Accounts records list payments to Longpre FY's 2011,2012 and 2013 as an OIC appointment. Current LRB records show him earning $155,000 as one of five Vice-Chairs of the seven-person LRB.

Considering Longpre's close involvement as Assistant Deputy Minister with the early days of this lengthy dispute, many people would think him the least credible member of the LRB to have acted on the file in 2014. However, as I wrote in the main article, this government has never been concerned about equity in this matter.



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18 comments:

  1. The BC Government - teachers action is part of the fundamental ignorance and fear of the educated by the clown car right wing neo-cons.

    The neo-cons fear the educated because the educated can dispel most, if not all of their bizarre theories and beliefs; common sense does not reside on the right wing.

    The fundamentalist neo-cons fear education because you can't sell their religious brand of economic theory on the educated, only the ignorant will buy in to their hocus-pocus beliefs.

    Thus the right wing must destroy education and the best way to do that without disturbing the greater public at large is to make wages fall and work load increase. This means the brightest teachers will move on to better paying jobs elsewhere, leaving the bottom half of the barrel to teach the kids. This is not to say good teachers do not exist in the province, rather the good teachers will be persuaded by higher pay and better working conditions in other jurisdictions.

    This will make the current lot driving the clown car very happy because they want the barely articulate to bah-bah-bah- Animal Farm like, supporting the clown-cars treacherous economic policy. The government wants an ignorant populace to be lead to economic slaughter by the elites who are pulling the clowns strings in the clown car. Ignorance equals power; ignorance equals slavery.

    No new ideas? By into LNG!

    No articulate debate? Hard to get 3 second sound bites!

    Poverty increases? The poor will work for nothing!

    This is what is behind the current government orchestrated strike and this is the governments ultimate goal. Evil resides in Victoria!

    ReplyDelete
  2. We're so far down the rabbit hole now! The very possibility that teaching could be ruled an essential service when the UN International Labour Organization uses education as an example of what is NOT an essential service, should show us how lost we are. Teaching has become a whipping boy for the BC Liberals' radical neoliberal ideology. They have no regard for the Canadian Charter or for decency. They want all public sector employees to make less money. How could a government want this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've shown here in the Not-Net-Zero series that Liberals do not want ALL public servants to make less money. The vast majority, yes.

      But the ranks of senior managers have been enjoying annual wage increases, on average, five times the rate of inflation and, for some, double that and more.

      An ordinary staff peron might work for 20+ years and retire on an annual pension about $20,000. A mandarin might work in government for ten years, switch to a publicly funded agency, receive a massive retirement alllowance and collect two pensions worth hundreds of thousands a year. In addition, the lucky ones collect even more by billing as consultants.

      No, Liberals don't want all public sector workers to make less money. Just most of them.


      .

      Delete
  3. How can education be essential 10 months a year but non-essential in the summer?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Of course the Liberal government want the senior Mandarins to make handsome wages, they all dine at the same clubs; holiday at the same resorts and have children who attend the same private schools. They are indeed the establishment and in the high positions they hold are able to both influence government and masquerade governments failures. Old boys and girls take care of old boys and girls, all at the taxpayers expense!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nice bit of legwork.

    I tried looking into Longpre's background when his recent misshaped teacher's decision came down... no Google Fu for me.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Education is an essential service. Without it, society ceases to exist. That doesn't mean teachers don't have the right to fair wages. They do! If they have to go on strike then so be it. Usually it is the governments ideal to not negotiate with the teachers. If they cannot reach an agreement, then they should go to binding arbitration, as should all other public sector employees, including MLA's.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree that education is essential, on a variety of levels. "Essential service" in a legal sense is a different kettle of fish though. Consider. Historically the province has been 100% on the hook for capital spending to build new schools and upgrade existing schools. In April the Ministry of Education informed school districts that they would be required to pay for up to 50% of capital projects. They included the caveat "if they have surplus money." Given how many districts have publicly identified having budget shortfalls, the implication would be the government will continue funding capital projects. School districts are already reporting delays to capital projects because government is reducing their financial commitment. So if education is an essential service, why is government seeking to reduce their expenditure on facilities, most significantly seismic upgrades? Education is essential when it suits government's interests.

      Delete
  7. Apparently the 10 percent wage reduction was started on the teachers' salary before the decision came down from the LRB.
    I fully support the teacher strike and hope that more join them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Liberals wanted BC teachers to be the worst paid in Canada. Eleventh place not good enough.

      By a single cut of 10%, they achieved their goal by the fast track.

      Delete
    2. The 10 percent reduction was on our pay stubs days before our pay was deposited. Please continue to support the teachers. Class size and composition is essential to good learning. Please help get other parents involved. The government will not bend until the parents let them know that they do not support the government. Check out http://parentsforbc.com/ and get involved.

      Delete
  8. Too bad there's been so much turnover at the Press Gallery in Victoria. None of those young whippersnapper journalists would have known that Richard Longpre was at the heart of the illegal effort to take class size and class composition out of the negotiated agreements.

    Had Palmer, Leyne, Smyth, Fletcher, Baldrey et all been arround a dozen years ago, they'd have known about Richard Longpre since that teacher thingie and the guvmint's shuffling through folks to find a compliant arbitrator was a big deal in the day.

    Of course, had these guys only known, it would't have been left up to some lowly political blogger to spread the news.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Typical Liberal fashion,as usual insiders and friends are the ones to judge them on issues that arise.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Why is this information not splashed across the Global BC and CBC news? The general public does not know this and I am sure they would be shocked.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No "exceptional journalism" as mentioned in the opening of this post. CBC & Global both employ provincial news reporters who are in conflicts. Stephen Smart was found by the CBC Ombudsman to be in conflict because his spouse worked as a political appointee for Christy Clark. CBC management said, "Carry on Stephen."

      Keith Baldrey is one of a number of journalists' who takes money for appearances in front of businesss organizations that offer strong support to Clark and the BC Liberals. One can only guess how much that influences Global's coverage.

      Delete
    2. As well, Rex Murphy (x-country checkup) accepts speaking fees for oil&gas outfits; Mansbridge as well. Even the Pres CBC, LaCroix got caught & paid back some $30,000 excess expenses and he is a privatizer.
      Ombudsman sees nothing wrong with 'commentators' having a bias.

      Delete
  11. G. Barry StewartJune 11, 2014 at 9:39 PM

    I've just sent this link to my colleagues.

    Without access to schools to hold a pre-vote "Rah! Rah!" event, I suspect most teachers cast their vote, based on a few e-mails and a solid resolve borne out of the current negotiations — especially the 10% lockout — and the 12 years of teaching with an illegally-stripped contract. It's amazing that 81% of all members turned out to vote, as about 10,000 members are teachers-on-call. If they weren't teaching that day, they had to be extra-motivated to turn up. If they WERE working, that meant they were replacing an absent teacher… who likely was unable to vote. In Hope and Agassiz, a mobile poll went to each school site. We voted on the side of the street at lunch in Hope… which perhaps helped with our resolve to vote a certain way.

    Big locals had their own challenges. Surrey for example, had only two sites to vote at — so again, teachers HAD to be motivated to get out and vote, even if it entailed a perhaps 30-minute commute.

    We have to hope that the BC Liberals will respect the 86% YES vote.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Could the former Ontario Judge, George Adams, who was the arbitrator in the dispute in 2002, be called upon?

    From an old newspaper clipping (The Province, Wendy McLellan June 7, 2002):

    A prominent arbitrator appointed by the B.C. government to remove certain provisions from teachers' contracts has resigned.

    George Adams, a long-time Ontario arbitrator and former judge, was appointed May 13 to remove sections of the collective agreement that contradict the government's new education legislation. He resigned Tuesday.

    Adams is the second arbitrator to be appointed to the job. Colin Taylor, a highly regarded B.C. arbitrator, was first appointed to the position on April 12. He withdrew May 13.

    David Chudnovsky, president of the B.C. Teachers Federation that recently filed suit challenging the legislation, said the two resignations suggest no one wants the job of stripping contracts.

    "It's clear that any arbitrator with a shred of integrity won't participate in this process," Chudnovsky said yesterday.

    Bill 28, passed in January, removes class-size limits, staffing requirements for specialist teachers and support provisions for special-needs students from teachers' contracts and gave the decision-making authority to school boards.

    The teachers' union and several other unions argue the legislation violates the Charter of Rights.

    ReplyDelete

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