Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Toronto Garbage Strike Thoughts

It's only Day 3 of the city workers' strike, but you'd think it had been several weeks already, as it has been in Windsor, with the way Torontonians are reacting, lining up at transfer stations with one bag of garbage or dumping garbage in parks or stuffing soda cans in those tapes around the sidewalk trash containers. I don't know what the big deal is at this point because our garbage is only picked up every 2 weeks; our recycling is only picked up every 2 weeks; our biodegradables are picked up weekly, which is also a long time for items that rot within a day. But that's what the city has gotten us used to; that's the level of service we've grumbingly acquiesced to. So you'd think that being obedient sheep, we'd not notice any change for about 2 weeks.

That's for householders. It's a different story for businesses like restaurants that generate mounds of rotting trash every day. From a public health point of view, you'd think the city would've figured out a way for these business owners, who really don't have time to line up until arrogant union workers let them through, to dispose of their trash quickly. But this lack of foresight marks Mayor David Miller's and City Council's response to this strike. Yes, they told us transfer stations would be open; yes, they're arranging for local dumps in a few days; yes, they've arranged for a special side door entrance at City Hall for parents using a day care there, which Miller has promptly abused, being as his time needs are more important than all those poor schmucks lining up at Bermondsey transfer station. Yet they seem to have been taken by surprise at workers blocking the entrance to the garbage dumping points. Or have they?

Miller on the Bill Carroll show this morning on CFRB sounded firm and resolute and blunt with Torontonians who're already making this dumpy city more of a dump. But he used typical legal, obfuscating language to talk about the incendiary tactics of the union at the transfer stations. He talked of taking days and days to resolve this situation, a situation that occurred in the last strike and so was perfectly foreseeable and thus preventable. Why did the city not already have in place a conduct policy for workers picketing those stations when the strike started? Why when I've seen court injuctions happen in a day, will similar efforts in this situation take till next week? Why is the security not there for the citizens of this city, but to ensure union workers get their way? I liked the boldness of one Torontonian who ignored the picket line to dump his trash and then helped an old man with his trash. Such compassion is missing in the workers' tactics and the city's entire garbage policy, of which I've ranted about in the past, a policy designed only for healthy, strong people with lots of time on their hands.

It seems to me that the prematurely pissed off attitude of Torontonians is because of that garbage policy. People suddenly see an opportunity to get rid of their garbage in a timely fashion instead of storing it for weeks on end. And, as well, perhaps it wasn't just me whose garbage wasn't picked up the week before the strike. They tell you it'll take one to two business days to pick up missed garbage (unlike same day in years past), but in reality it's the next regular garbage pickup day. Meanwhile, the city insists you keep your missed garbage outside. I guess they feel sorry for those poor garbage-diving raccoons who can never get enough. Since we haven't seen any massive garbage worker layoffs and since Toronto isn't doing massive infill housing building, then this situation is a simple drop in level of service. Less professional in their pickup; less professional in rectifying missed pickups. Meanwhile, a missed pickup has bigger ramifications than before as pickup frequencies have been quartered. Garbage missed once means garbage moulders on your property for a month.

Yet people did not protest in ways the union is protesting now to stop this downward spiral in service. Instead, like weasels in the dark, they rush to the dump sites to regain a semblance of old levels of service, only to be forced to wait for hours or not get in at all, thereby thwarting said oppportunity. They deserve it at this stage; they shouldn't have been so apathetic in the first place.

And that makes me wonder if anyone in Toronto has the guts to use this strike to make changes. I doubt citizenry are going to inundate Councillors with requests to resume old levels of service. And beyond venting their rage in polls and in illegal dumping, I doubt that citizens will give the city the kind of backing Windsorites have given their Mayor -- to take this strike as long as needed to ensure a more financially prudent contract that will allow workers to take short-term disability when truly needed. Already people are calling for the province to bring in back-to-work legislation. That means arbitration people, which means the union will get their way. Hello, wake up Torontonians! You really want your taxes to not inflate with this landmine of a sick-day-banking ball headed our way, then you gotta stick it out.

That also means Toronto citizens need to support the city, like Windsorites have theirs, by arranging, like one local Toronto resident, for neighbourhood garbage pickup, or local stations for helping people dispose of their garbage, like CFRB announced this morning, or looking after your neighbourhood parks (which is not much different than normal with parks' service dropping too over the years -- I don't know what the heck all those new hires are doing, sure as heck not looking after the city). And it means that you fellow Torontonians tell Miller loud and clear that he cannot represent the city, and, at the same time, underhandedly support the unions. If these banked sick days are really going to bankrupt the city, then he needs to roll back councillor pay increases -- show some belated leadership, for heaven's sake -- like how did this idiot not see the unions' legit grievance coming when he didn't insist on freezing Councillors' pay and gave all other workers good increases as well as ballooning the size of the civil service while stiffing non-union workers only?!!! -- and he needs to insist on holding out longer than the workers. And he can't do that if you start screaming for the province to step in! In the end, Torontonians need to ask themselves: who runs this city? You? The want-it-both-ways City Council? Or the workers?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree the big guy as from supervisor,City councilor and including the Mayor
That need to make some adjutsment their pay cheque as too high!
Then the worker as driver loader that been taking care of your garbage.
So if the worker got sick from job and he got to stay at hospital for long time so he have to utilized that sick day may got to stay for a couple weeks of deaseses as all kind of dangerous flue around.
So I think that garbage man have the right to keep their sick day.
Cheers

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

Workers don't have "rights" per se to sick days -- there is no such right under the Charter -- but a good employer looks after their sick employees. Short term disability morphing into long term disability would cover your example of a worker injured and in hospital. They don't need bankable sick days that can bankrupt the city to ensure they're taken care of when sick or injured. That's a left-over idea from way back when. Time to get into the 21st century!

Worker wages aren't anything to sneeze at either. Not bad hourly wages, if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

This year we have been forced to pay extra for our garbage pickup in the GTA. Will we be reimbursed by the city for the number of days the strike goes on? Better yet, I've decided to charge $100/hour for my time. If I have to wait at a picket line to do the job I'm already paying the city to do, I'll send them a bill.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

That's a good point. I haven't seen anyone in the media ask the city about this. I'd like to hear their take on it.

I object anyway to doing much of the work -- sorting etc -- that the city should be doing when garbage is being picked up and not being paid for it, never mind that the city doesn't offer sick day compensation for any injuries homeowners sustain carting those bins.

Anonymous said...

Toronto folk cannot think beyond their left leanning nose, they go by rhetoric and not logic. How can it be logical to "bank " sick days and not use them when sick! ( I am sure many come in when sick in ordder to retire early) This should never have been allowered in the first place.
I love your long rant--if only it would give Toronto folk the right thinking and back bone it needs!

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

They're also rather partial to the familiar; they may hate an incumbent but soooo much better than a new political representative who may actually change things for the better. [rolling eyes]

I have seen TTC workers discuss abusing overtime so abuse of sick days probably occurs too.

Dan McIntyre said...

The papers say that Mayor Miller lives very close to the High Park Subway station and passes it every day on his way to work.

We can't dump trash at the High Park entrance because that is where the buses come out but people are already dumping their trash at the Quebec Avenue entrance just slightly north of Bloor Street - I recommend it!

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

You're such a radical Dan! :D Not like those citizens protesting the Christie Pits dump who brought pretend garbage to City Hall so that the politicians and strikers wouldn't have to smell the stink that they're causing. If you're going to protest, then do it properly, make a statement that's dramatic but doesn't harm, like your idea. And don't forget to take out any identifying information before dumping your trash.

Driving around the city today, I was struck by how clean it was (except for a couple of small, very local pockets). Even yesterday, I didn't wade through mounds of litter like one normally does when attending festivities. Is it possible Torontonians are not soiling their nest so much because of the strike? Or is it because they can get rid of all their garbage more frequently?

Rags said...

As many residents of Toronto face the challenges that the current garbage strike has left them, one man has taken a new approach to a solution. Roofer Dave of Toronto has suspended his regular business tasks, and now offers residents a way to get rid of their trash in a safe and environmentally friendly way. Trash is collected for merely five dollars per twenty pound bag and taken to licenced disposal facilities for disposal (NOT THE CITY TEMPORARY DUMP SITES) Dave's plan is to ease the pain residents are feeling not add to it. According to Roofer Dave, "We are currently working on recycling efforts to divert as much as we can from land fills. We will have more on this as facilities get back to us." Finding Roofer Dave on his route is easy, simply follow @fivebucksabag on Twitter to see where and when he may be in your neighbourhood or contact him through his web site at www.fivebucksabag.com.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

That's a good idea! There seems to be a number of entrepreneurs who are helping get rid of the garbage, either as a neighbourhood thing, for charity, or citywide. If they all take it to places other than the temp dump sites, this will make things much cleaner for all of us!

Thanks for sharing!