Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Toronto Garbage Strike Over. Property Taxes Will Rise in the Spring.

Everyone is cheering. The Toronto city strike is over. But at what cost?

As soon as I heard the news, I knew it was too soon for the city and Mayor David Miller to have achieved their stated aims. Actually as soon as I heard the union's ultimatum, I knew the city would cave, as if the threat was some great tsunami they could never escape. All in their head, especially as workers were already crossing the picket line, but the union knew that and worked them good.

The city had released their offer a couple of weeks ago, and though it was fair and I didn't think it needed to go any further, negotiation protocol would say that it would. However, the Mayor and the city was adamant on one point, that the sick day bank would have to close. It was costing and will cost the city too much. A short-term disability program was better. Almost everybody else has one, and the one the city proposed would benefit all off-probation employees when they became sick. But it is not a bonus for showing up to work like the sick bank; instead it's a let-relieve-your-mind when sick so you don't come in to work and infect everyone else. That didn't sit well with the union.

The city started this strike off in the wrong mindset: despite it being intransigent since the contract ended about 6 months ago and tough talk about low city coffers, a city manager and the Mayor felt strongly that this would be a short strike. Many of us wondered what they were smoking -- did they really think the union would accede to their demands quickly? Perhaps Miller did because he was a friend of the union's and because as one worker put it to me, what Miller wanted in garbage policy, the union exec gave to him.

Unfortunately, our Mayor does not have the tough-mindedness of the Windsor mayor. That Mayor, backed by tough Windsorites understood that to achieve lower tax hikes and a more sane union contract would require them to wait. And they did.
When asked for his reaction on Thursday morning, Toronto Mayor David
Miller said: "Obviously if Windsor can reach an agreement, it should be
possible to reach one in Toronto. As I've been saying for weeks, there
needs to be a sense of urgency at the table to find a way to say yes."
(CBC, 23 July 2009)
Only thing is Toronto has barely been on strike compared to Windsor and Windsor had patience. But Torontonians, aided and abetted by the Toronto media, whined before the strike even began. And just to up the whine factor, the city made the ridiculous choice to use parks as temporary dumps. They and a weak management and Mayor were sitting ducks for the unions. Who really has the power in this city? It's not us, and it's not City Council, who couldn't get it through their thick heads they did not owe loyalty to the unions but to us citizens and should continue to run the city as Windsor did. And it's definitely not Mayor Miller, who squandered this golden opportunity to bring efficiency and sanity to the union contracts.

According to the Toronto Sun, the city and union agreed to this:

Wages

1.75% raise in 2009 (new pay will be 101.75% of old pay, if I've got my math right)
1.75% raise in 2010 (which equals 1.75% of raised pay of 101.75%)
2.5% raise in 2011 (which equals 2.5% of 1.75% of 101.75%)

That increases wages by just over 2% over the city's offer. Not a huge concession like the union crowed. But...

Benefits

Union members can choose to take the buyout and enroll in the short-term disability plan as the city offered or to keep their sick day bank. Talk about building more inefficiency into the union contract! Can you imagine the increased requirement for computer software flexibility and bureaucratic monitoring? I wonder how many people the city will have to hire just to keep tabs on which of the 24 to 30,000 union members will take the buyout and which will keep their bank?!!!
As Rob Ford, said: "We had a 37 day strike for that" (Bryn Weese and Joe Warmington, The Toronto sun, 28 July 2009)
New employees will be enrolled into the short-term disability plan.

UPDATE: The Toronto Star puts a different spin on it, saying that workers can choose between the buyout or freeze their sick day bank and then take it at retirement, but all workers as of this contract will be moved to the short-term disability plan. They have three sources versus the Sun's two. These guessing games are getting ridiculous. Why should we all be left in the dark, especially since the city had released its offer to the public?!

The question is do our City Councillors have the same limp backbone as Mayor Miller; do they too indulge in lawyer-type rationalization that makes a mockery of honesty? Or do we have a chance to say to them that they should vote no as long as the sick bank remains, that they must stand up for their own words and for the city coffers and for our own diminishing pocketbooks? Or do we act helpless as we did when City Council voted for new taxes on car registrations, on land transfers, on garbage disposal and assume they're all like the Mayor:
"Pleased that
agreement negotiated meets City's goals and bargaining mandate: fair,
affordable; allows efficient, effective public services"
(Mayor Miller, Twitter Feed, 27 July 2009)
I twittered to Mayor Miller that a long strike would be a waste if the city gave the union what they wanted anyway. So, of course, he did and calls it fair and affordable. Oh brother. This is what Toronto does. Every single effing time. But this time I have a Twitter account and a blog and Facebook to point this out to people during the next election. This time I'll be able to remind people that whoever they elect as Mayor will be facing another garbage strike and that person had better get it right unlike Mayor Miller did this week. It's one thing to have no platform but your friends' and family's suffering ears -- in which case, what do politicians care if they piss you off -- it's another to have a public place to vent. And if nothing else, it makes me feel better, find kindred spirits, and, unlike the Mayor and city negotiators, to put my money where my mouth is.

2 comments:

broker lorne said...

Well, Miller lost his popularity rapidly and his career of a municipal politician is very likely over. He did it so wrong this time. The strike could have been a test of his abilities and he failed. Regards, Lorne.

Anonymous said...

The stupid brain-dead of Toronto will STILL elect a predominantly left-wing council that seems determined to bankrupt the city and ruin the business climate. Miller and his liberal elitists want Toronto as a closed-in enclave for their kind, while forcing newcomers into the suburbs and removing any temptation suburbanites might have for visiting the city. Next, the losers will tear down the Gardner.