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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

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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 Vancouver Sun 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 of Canada.

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. 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,
Leverage Olympic Momentum

“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 stage.

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 thinking?

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 manufacturing industry.

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. (tw66)

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 their time.

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 or more.”


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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Talk to us before you talk to them.
Leverage Olympic Momentum

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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 individual abilities.

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 grabs.

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 profit.

Priorities changed over the years and so too should their Creed & Motto.

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."
George Orwell

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