Sunday, March 18, 2012

What's up with midnight strike deadlines?

Talks between the union representing library workers and the city’s library board continued Sunday afternoon, as bleary eyed teams of negotiators worked to hammer out an agreement and avert a work stoppage.

Late Saturday night, both parties decided to extend their 12:01 a.m. deadline to 3 a.m., then 6 a.m., then 12 noon, and then until 5 p.m., according to a Toronto Public Library spokesperson.

It sounds like they've been negotiating for well over 24 hours straight, and it sounds like this is at least partly because of the midnight strike deadline. The midnight deadline impels them to negotiate right up until midnight, and then past midnight, and then keep going and going...

But negotiation is delicate, nuanced, interpersonal work. It doesn't seem very compatible with sleepless nights. People who are tired get cranky and are more likely to snap at people, and are also more likely to miss nuances and fine details. It really seems in everyone's best interest to be well-rested. And yet, every strike deadline with which I'm familiar has been at midnight.

Why do they do it this way? Why not set the strike deadline for 6 pm, and, if they feel that progress is being made but they aren't done at 6 pm, extend the strike deadline to noon or 6 pm the next day, leave at a natural stopping point, and have some dinner and sleep. Yes, there'd be some dead time in between. That would enable the employer to stay open for another half-day or full-day, and the workers to earn another half-day's or full day's wages. It sounds like a win-win-win situation. So why don't they do this?

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