Toronto mayor takes first step in contracting out

Rosy predictions of cost savings looking more remote

On February 7, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford gave the outside workers union official notice of his intention to contract out garbage collecting in the city. The area to be covered by the privatized services would be 165,000 homes in Toronto west of Yonge Street.

Three hundred city jobs would be affected.

It will be a long process. This announcement gives the union 90 days’ notice of the introduction of a motion in Council to study contracting out the service, as required by the collective agreement. That motion will be accompanied by a recommendation from the Solid Waste Management Services Division.

If Council passes the motion, a request for quotations would be issued. The earliest that a contract would be in place, according to the city press release, is the middle of 2012. That is six months after the current Canadian Union of Public Employees collective agreements expire and 16 months before the next municipal election.

Both CUPE locals in Toronto have job security: no permanent, full-time inside employee with 10 years of seniority will lose his or her job if work is contracted out; and no permanent outside employee, regardless of seniority, will be laid off.

The outside workers’ local had not posted any response to Ford’s announcement as this story was posted, but has stated publicly that it is not an employer and has no intention of bidding for the garbage collection work.

It is not immediately obvious, as the union points out, how the city will achieve the cost savings Ford has promised when it can remove only part-time and temporary workers from the payroll. And he has argued that he can also achieve smaller government through attrition. The former garbage collectors will have the right to vacant positions without going through the job posting process (provided they have the skill and ability).

The city is currently making strenuous efforts to reduce the amount of solid waste going to landfills and has made much of its recycling achievements to date. Garbage collected from apartment buildings and condos, however, achieves a much lower level of recycling. And that garbage is collected by private contractors.

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