The decision to close the Gander RO after some 30 years of existence was made earlier this year, likely before the PSAC Triennial Convention in May 2012 and while John Gordon was President of the PSAC. We know this because it was later revealed that the lease on the space in which the office was located was not renewed and this would normally have been done at least six months prior to its expiration date. Subsequently, and well after the fact, the staff and members affected by such a decision were made aware of it in a manner which cannot be described as either transparent or consultative in the usual meaning of same.
There are a number of reasons why this should be a matter of grave concern not only for Alliance members in Newfoundland and Labrador, who have come to rely on the services provided by this office but Alliance members everywhere. Let’s look at this a bit more closely.
First of all, the Gander Regional Office is the only Regional Office specifically established by a PSAC Convention. This was done at the 1982 Triennial Convention. And while the Executive Management Committee (EMC), the equivalent of today’s Alliance Executive Committee (AEC) at the time might have preferred to locate a second office in Cornerbrook, they followed through with the expressed wishes of the Convention Delegates and proceeded to open an office in Gander in 1983 and staffed it with a Regional Representative and an Administrative Assistant. Clearly, this was an internal political decision and the elected officers of the day were not going to be seen as thwarting a decision made by the supreme governing body of the union; namely, the Triennial Convention. They understood that neither the National Board of Directors (NBoD) nor the EMC had the constitutional authority to overrule a decision made by Convention delegates. To do so, would be to go against the basic democratic tenets of the organization, specifically the mechanism which ensures membership control over the affairs of the union. This is how PSAC members hold their leaders accountable.
This means that any decision to reverse or negate a Convention decision must be referred to that body. In this particular case, any proposal to close the Gander RO should have been placed before the delegates at the Convention held in Ottawa this past summer. It could have then been reviewed by the appropriate Convention Committee which would have then made a recommendation of concurrence or non-concurrence to the delegates in attendance. Debate would have ensued and the matter ultimately voted on. That is how it should have been done.
Now, some might argue that the decision really was only made somewhat later, weeks even months after the convention and consequently it would have been too onerous to expect the organization to have to wait another three years to deal with this matter. But that is simply not possible given the facts as they are now known. The landlord of the property where the Gander RO was located would have had to have some notice, usually at least six months, that the lease was not going to be renewed. One would be hard pressed to find a commercial lease without such a provision. After all, the owner of the building would need time to find a suitable alternative tenant and make the necessary renovations to accommodate their enterprise.
So, we are left with the stark realization that the decision to close the Gander RO was taken very early on in 2012, if not before. That being the case, the matter should have been raised at the Convention. Why it was not becomes the critical question to ponder. It could be because the AEC genuinely believed that they had the authority to make such decisions themselves. Certainly that would be the case in for every other Regional Office. If this indeed is what happened then steps need to taken to correct this error until such a time as Convention delegates can consider the matter and render a decision. However, if the decision was made in the full knowledge of the particular circumstances which gave rise to the existence of the Gander RO in the first place, a much more grave situation presents itself not only to those directly affected by the closure but to the very foundations of the Alliance, itself. For if a Convention decision can be overturned, changed or even, as in this case, reversed without the approval of delegates at Convention the whole democratic basis of the organization will soon come to be seen as no more important to the union’s leaders than is Parliament to the current Harper Government. Talk about inviting the wolf to enter the barnyard! Once our friends from the rabid right hear about this you can be sure that they will use it to introduce further draconian measures under the guise of ensuring the democratic nature of Canadian unions!