The Garret Tree
Friday, September 30, 2005
  CBC 118: Ford has a better idea

The Globe and Mail Report on Business today looks at why the negotiations between Ford and the Canadian Auto Workers went so well.

In five intensive days, without a single table-banging incident or raised voice,[Ford negotiator] Stacey Allerton Firth quietly became the newest Canadian industrial relations idol.....
“She paid attention, she didn't miss an issue, she didn't misread an issue,” [CAW head Buzz] Hargrove said...
Ms. Allerton Firth said over a vegetarian lunch that she simply treated the negotiators on the other side of the table the way she likes to be treated...
Issues were talked out rather than fought out, in an atmosphere of mutual respect, she said. And there was no negotiation by exhaustion...

And the key point:
... the Ford team received training in communications and problem-solving because they wanted to know “how you talk about tough issues in a way that invites dialogue,” Ms. Allerton Firth said.
“If you need the help of the other party in solving business issues, they need to understand what they are. You have to share a lot of information.”
Her team was also trained in “active listening skills” to better understand the union's concerns."

Where did Ford send its neogtiating team for training? One thing is certain, it probably wasn't the Niagara Institute. And the taxpayers' money would have been better spent on a local call from Toronto to Oakville to ask "Where are you guys going?"

Update: I received this e-mail from a locked out producer:

Interesting point you make about Niagara in relation to the Ford-CAW story, Robin.

The funny thing is, I went to Niagara and we had a session about resolving conflict that was all about dialogue, problem solving, and trying to find common ground. The basic tenet was, find out what the other side really needs, and maybe it's the means that are the problem, not the ends.

That said, it's apparent that this message is sadly absent from the management side of the bargaining table. CMG has said if it's flexibility you want, we'll give it to you (as we do now). But CBC is bent on the means -- contract workers -- not the ends -- flexibility.

I think the Big 3 settlements are a great counter-point to what's going on here. These are two entities that have shown animosity and entrenchment in the past, and the Big 3 are all hurting financially. Yet all three came to quick, solid agreements with the CAW that meted out a little pain for both sides, but enough long-term security that the business won't collapse and jobs will continue.

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I write in a renovated garret in my house in a part of Toronto, Canada, called "The Pocket." The blog is named for a tree can be seen outside the window of my garret.

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Name: Robin Rowland
Location: Toronto, Canada

I'm a Toronto-based writer, photographer, web producer, television producer, journalist and teacher. I'm author of five books, the latest A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal. The Garret tree is my blog on the writing life including my progress on my next book (which will be announced here some time in the coming months) My second blog, the Wampo, Nieke and Sonkrai follows the slow progress of my freelanced model railway based on my research on the Burma Thailand Railway (which is why it isn't updated that often) The Creative Guide to Research, based on my book published in 2000 is basically an archive of news, information and hints for both the online and the shoe-leather" researcher. (Google has taken over everything but there are still good hints there)

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