Saturday 12 March 2011

How do you fire a senator?

Imagine if you were so bad at your job that you were disowned by the people who hired you, and actually forbidden from working. That is more or less the case with disgraced senator Raymond Lavigne, who was kicked out of the Liberal caucus and suspended from Senate in 2007. Yet for over three years he has collected his $130,000 salary as well as tens of thousands of dollars in various perks including travel expenses.

One Ottawa egghead stated, in reference to Monsieur Lavigne, “Every public officeholder has to be held accountable to a higher standard than the normal population”, yet that is far from the truth here. Any member of the "normal population" would have been kicked out on their ass long ago. Under Canadian law an employer is able to terminate employment without notice or severance in lieu of notice if there is just cause. I have some examples from my own employment travels to illustrate some of these instances, if you don't mind:

Insolence or insubordination
I don't know how this might apply to Raymond Lavigne, but I once worked with a guy who was prone to angry outbursts in which he would threaten coworkers and management. After one such outburst, he was called into the office, informed of his termination, and promptly escorted out of the building.

I worked at a department store where I was being trained on how to assemble and fix bicycles. One day I went to work and my mentor did not show up. "Where is he?", asked I. "He was caught stealing a video game last night". Just like that, his job was gone.

A $50 video game in exchange for a job, but that's how it works. Or, that's how it should work. Raymond Lavigne stole from the tax payers. He claimed travel expenses that he did not incur, and used office resources for personal reasons. Perhaps he thought that using his office assistant to cut down his neighbour's trees somehow benefitted the people of Canada.

You cannot just fire somebody for incompetence if they have been on the job for more than 3 months or whatever probationary period they agreed to. That is why, at one place of employment, we had something called the "Performance Improvement Program". In theory, the Performance Improvement Program was a warning that you had to get your act together or you would be let go. In reality, it was your three month notice that you were getting canned for incompetence. I don't think anyone was ever able to retain their job after getting PIPed.

Wouldn't it be great if we could PIP Raymond Lavigne?

In all three cases above, the person was walked out the door with no severance. You were a BAD employee. You lost your job. Bye bye. Why can't we do this with Raymond Lavigne? Because Raymond Lavigne has lawyers. He would sue for wrongful dismissal until the legal costs to the Crown ended up exceeding his salary, and in the end some lame-ass judge would probably award him millions of dollars in compensation. That is why "any move to throw Mr. Lavigne out of the Red Chamber is only expected to come after he exhausts all avenues to appeal his conviction." -G&M- Because only then can we be sure that he would not win a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

But there is one other option: Reasonable alternate work. I have an anecdote for this one too:

I used to work for an IT company doing helpdesk reporting: average speed to answer (ASA), abandon rate, and so on. They let me make graphs. It was good. Anyhow, there was a fellow on the helpdesk (ie. he applied for, and accepted this job answering phones) who, sometime after his probation period had passed, had to go on sick leave because he was afraid of telephones. I am not shitting you. This really happened. I guess the stress of not knowing when the phone would ring caused him so much anxiety that he had to go on short term disability.

He eventually came back to work, but was unfireable because his incompetence was a result of a medical condition. Thus, he was reassigned from the helpdesk to an alternate job doing shift work down in tape ops. This job involved staying up all night mounting and unmounting storage tapes for the server farm. Fun stuff. Three months later he was gone. I don't know if he quit or if he was fired for being incompetent at this new job, but either way the company was rid of him.

I submit that since Raymond Lavigne is unable to do his job, being banned from the senate chambers and all, that we should find alternate work for him. Like, perhaps, personal bathroom assistant for Steven Fletcher. That's right, Ray. You are now on Steven Fletcher doody duty. Gretchen here will show you the ropes. Literally. There are ropes involved. Have fun!


Graham said...

This guy is such a clown that he makes the argument for abolishing the senate legitimate all by himself.

We wouldn't even need a national debate for this garbage. Just show the public their compensation claims.

For doing...oh, nothing. That's nice.

How am I unemployed, again?

cherenkov said...

Send your resume to Sharon Carstairs. She might be looking for an assistant. Can you do pedicures?

Gustav Nelson said...

What's more important is why do any politicians get these lavish spending accounts and pensions. Everything they get reimbursed for should not be allowed at taxpayer expense.
Also, their salaries should be cut and their pensions abolished all together.
The public shouldn't expect these people to solve all of the worlds problems, so their roles should be minimized to basic functions of government.

cherenkov said...

There is probably some opportunity to trim budgets there. I'm not sure about cutting salaries. Some senators do important work in committees and so on. I think maybe the salaries should be more incentive-based. If you rarely show up and don't pull your weight with committee work, you should get a drastically reduced salary (if you can't get fired).

RM said...

Sharon... wasn't she in favour of a triple E senate? I wonder how THAT little task is going for her. How do you spell hypocrite?

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