Thursday, July 30, 2009


Let us once again note that TD&F pronounces judgment on communications, not policy – a point worth reiterating when looking at an issue as polarizing as the strike by Toronto city staff. Throughout, Mayor David Miller has positioned the dispute as being centred around the issue of bankable sick days, under which unionized staff can cash out up to six months of unused sick time upon retirement. When speaking to reporters after a settlement was reached this week, Miller claimed that the deal “eliminates the provision of bankable sick days.” However, after more than half an hour of media questioning, Miller changed his language, to say that the sick bank is instead being “phased out.” New hires will be given a new, “modernized” short-term disability plan, but for all existing employees, the status quo remains in place. Critics and pundits have been pounding Miller ever since, for holding up a web-footed, long-billed, quacking contract agreement and trying to call it anything other than a duck. In the communications business, we’re all about strategic positioning and careful choice of language when articulating an important message – but that said, you can’t be too cute by half. Miller tried, and Fumbled. He should have talked about “phasing out” or “grandfathering” right at the outset and been ready to defend his decision, rather than shredding his credibility by trying to call it something which it clearly isn’t.

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