City services will be sharply curtailed if Toronto workers walk off the job late Sunday night, officials said yesterday – but property taxes are due as usual.
As the city announced plans to close daycare centres, suspend garbage pickup and cancel ferry service for Toronto Island picnickers in the event of a strike, it reminded residents that property tax bills have been issued and remain “due as per the due dates identified on your tax bill.”
And just a reminder: Parking enforcement officers, who aren’t part of either local, will remain on the job if there’s a strike, handing out tickets as usual.
City manager Joe Pennachetti told a packed City Hall news conference yesterday that the city still hopes to avoid a strike: “We do not want a strike, and we believe a strike is unnecessary.”
But he repeated the city’s bargaining mantra that money is tight.
“During a recession, demand for city services increases while the revenue to pay the cost of delivering these services is generally reduced,” he said. “Therefore, the cost of our wages and benefits needs to reflect what is truly affordable.”
Meanwhile, Pat Daley, a spokesperson for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, painted a grim picture, saying no significant progress has been made since last week, when union leaders warned the talks were heading for trouble.
“No, things are not looking great,” Daley told reporters. The union says the city initially tabled 118 pages of concessions, and “most of that stuff is still there,” Daley said.
Both CUPE Local 416, representing outside workers, and Local 79, representing inside workers, are in a legal strike position as of one minute past midnight on Monday morning.
The city unveiled its contingency plans yesterday.
At the top of the list of hardships: 57 daycare centres will close their doors if workers strike.
Garbage pickup is another huge headache, although Etobicoke residents won’t be affected because they have pickup by a private firm, as do residents of most highrise buildings.
But as of Tuesday (there’s no pickup on Mondays), 400,000 single-family households would have no garbage service, leaving residents with the choice of storing trash on their property or lugging it to one of seven transfer stations around the city.
About 20,000 businesses would also be affected.
Additional drop-off sites will be announced if a strike is prolonged.
“It’s certainly going to be a skeleton service here, and it’s going to be hardship to a lot of people,” said Councillor Doug Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre).
Mayor David Miller, who has left the job of negotiating to city staff, “will be on the job no matter what the situation,” spokesman Stuart Green said yesterday.
He wouldn’t say whether Miller would cross picket lines to reach his office.
Miller and other councillors won’t have to worry about doing so to attend council meetings, however: They’ll be cancelled for the duration because the support staff who prepare documents, set up sound systems and take minutes are union members.
A strike could spell trouble for the Pride Parade on June 28, but city officials said Pride and other festivals can go ahead if organizers make arrangements for services such as street cleanup, which is normally provided by city workers.
Tracey Sandilands, executive director for Gay Pride, said event organizers have contingency plans in place, including paying $15,000 to $20,000 to a private company to handle garbage generated from all official Pride Week events.
“We won’t be leaving the (Gay Pride) sites full of garbage,” she said.
Daley said the union would be “very disappointed to see someone else hired to do our members’ work if they’re on strike, especially with Pride.”
Unhappy observers of yesterday’s strike plans included Toronto’s non-unionized professional and technical staff, who have their own association. City council froze their cost of living increases for this year, with a 1 per cent increase for next year.
Richard Majkot, executive director of the staff association, said the non-union staff still feel bruised.
“They’re going to be there to assist the city,” he said. “They may not be as eager as they normally would be to help the city, but they’re going to be there.”