Friday, 19 June 2009

18 Days

The city of Toronto seems to be on a collision course with its unionized workers towards a work stoppage this Monday. While many city services could be affected by the strike, such as pool closures, city camp disruptions, permit allocation and the like, the one area that everybody is talking about is garbage! Yup! It's true. The city of Toronto is likely headed towards a garbage strike beginning on the first full workday of summer. A caveat in the interest of full disclosure: I don't technically live within the city limits, so my family will not be fully involved in this strike as my city, the totally above scandal and reproach (she says dripping with sarcasm!) city of Vaughn, will continue to haul my trash and recycling as per usual.

Now, anybody who has ever lived through a garbage strike knows that things can get fairly ugly pretty quickly. In spite of designated transfer stations and areas designed for dumping, inconsiderate boors tend to just toss their crap wherever they please. The odours become unbearable and the health ramifications are enormous, especially in the heat and humidity of a Toronto summer. (If it ever shows up!) So, it would seem logical that both sides in the dispute would be doing everything they can to avoid such a scenario. The problem is 18 days. 18 measly sick days. It seems that the union had negotiated in past contracts a marvelous little perk that allowed its members 18 sick days a year. If those days were not used, they could be banked and cashed out at retirement, with certain limits, up to 130 full days. This little nugget, which is unheard of in the private sector, is costing the city upwards of $250 million dollars per year. Obviously, the city wants to do away with the practice while the union is fighting tooth and nail to keep it. This little gem of a cartoon by Patrick Corrigan of The Toronto Star appeared in today's paper.

While I am sympathetic to workers who have negotiated contracts in good faith, it is becoming increasingly obvious that unions have yet to grasp the severity of the new economic order. Last month, the Canadian Auto workers seemed willing to allow GM and Chrysler to go under, rather than accept concessions that were necessary to keep the companies afloat. In the end, the companies got what they required if only because the workers finally came to understand that a plum manufacturing job of any kind in this market was better than unemployment. Not only that, it is difficult to sell such a lavish perk to the public and get them on your side when many of those same rate payers are suffering economic hardship. The optics for the union in this case are poor and it will be next to impossible to win the PR battle. It will only get worse when the garbage starts piling up, the smells start permeating and the tourists stop coming.

If any of my friends or relatives who live in the city require help in disposing of trash, call me and we can arrange suitable waste management. We have every other week pick up (welcome to the real world Toronto!) with a limit of 3 bags. Anything over that costs a buck, but it is well worth the loonie. Recycling occurs weekly with no limit, so if your are a conscientious separator, we can do business. I end with my favourite folkie who in this one song sums up what we may be in for. Good luck TO! You're going to need it.

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