Given the Rolling Stones' special relationship with this burg, it's hardly surprising to hear the vice-chair of the police services board borrowing from the band's lyrics for her summation of negotiations that led to a tentative labour pact with Toronto cops this week. "You don't always get what you want," a beaming Pam McConnell announced from the podium at police headquarters Tuesday, November 8. "But," the almost giddy councillor added (skipping over the "if you try sometimes" stuff from the original late-60s hit), "you get what you need. And we got what we needed."
Neither McConnell nor Alok Mukherjee, her successor as police board chair, wanted to talk money or actual terms of the agreement that had been reached some time before 7 that morning after more than 30 hours of almost non-stop bargaining in a downtown hotel room.
For the board, it seems, those details weren't the most important thing. It may have wanted a four-year deal complete with a compressed workweek and a reduction in retention pay for veteran officers. But what the board needed more than anything else was a negotiated deal.
Had the bargaining impasse between the board and the Toronto Police Association been passed on to the provincial Labour Ministry for binding arbitration, it's very likely the cops would have got what they wanted. And then the "dysfunctional" label the board has been stuck with would have been unshakable.
So the board caved and will now leave it up to budget chief David Soknacki to find the $60 million needed to make Toronto's 5,200 cops the highest-paid in Canada. The agreement calls for a 3.75 per cent wage increase this year, 3.1 per cent in 2006 and 3 per cent in 2007. But, hey, the deal was negotiated. Never mind that about 150 officers defied Chief Bill Blair's orders not to wear their uniforms and carry guns to last week's association-organized rally at City Hall. It was part of a job action that also included wearing union caps and parking their cruisers instead of patrolling between calls.
"The job action didn't influence the board's position," McConnell maintained. No, the board's overwhelming desire for a negotiated settlement carried the day.
It's no surprise that the process was long and painful. After all, there's no recent history of negotiations between the board and its employees to use as a guide.
Back when Melvin Douglas Lastman was mayor and Norman Gardner his police services honcho, bargaining essentially started with then police association president Craig Bromell telling the powers that be what his members wanted, and ended with the pols handing over the cash, with a thumbs-up from former top cop Julian Fantino. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. Say no more.
This time there was no preordained outcome. New mayor. New board. New chief. New union boss. And everyone trying to get from point A to point Z without a road map. Chaos was a natural by-product. "It was the weirdest set of negotiations I've ever seen," said one insider with a decent view of the scene.
"We reached an agreement when we were ready to reach an agreement," Mukherjee said of the deal that will be presented to police association members on the weekend for ratification by December 5. The TPSB chair called the pact "an act of will and commitment from both parties."
But there's little question the cops came out the big winner. "We got the results we needed to take back to the membership," said TPA president Dave Wilson. "This is a good day for the city of Toronto."
And Mayor David Miller, also a police board member, concurred: "The agreement gives the officers what they've been asking for and what they deserve. It also gives Toronto and the police board what they needed: the ability to work with the officers to find better ways to get them on the streets when they're needed."
Only time will tell whether Miller is right. He and the board have left it to Chief Blair to decide what action to take against the rogue officers who ignored his dress-code edict last week. After expressing his approval of the deal, Blair made it clear that there will be consequences for the cops who flexed their muscle in Nathan Phillips Square.
"The outcome of that investigation will be determined by the processes allowed for in the Police Services Act," he said.
Wilson responded by warning that the cops will continue their job action "until any possible discipline that comes as a result of the job action has been dealt with to our satisfaction."
And what happens if the police union can't get no satisfaction? Well, there's always negotiation.