Toronto Garbage Strike – What Do You Think?

by Mike Holman

Welcome to Money Smarts! If you're new here, please read the "About" page to find out more about this site. If you would like to receive updates by email then sign up here or you can subscribe to the RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

strike2

[edit July 30 -  Toronto garbage strike over?  Dave Miller cave-in]

As anyone who lives in Toronto knows – the City of Toronto outside worker are on strike, which of course means…no garbage pickup.  This may seem like a big deal but the city has set up some temporary garbage dropoffs so you can still get rid of your garbage fairly easily.  The union that is on strike does cover some other functions such as day care, wading pools and a few other things but the garbage issue is the most visible.

My family has quite a bit of garbage accumulated since we forgot to put our garbage out 2 weeks ago which of course was the last pickup before the strike.  I wanted to get rid of it asap but I had heard some horror stories of union shenanigans at the Bermondsey transfer station last week so I was worried that the pickets would be out of control at the temp sites as well.  However, I heard from one of my favourite readers Guiness416 that she went to the Ted Reeves station on Saturday and had no problem and no wait.

Yesterday, my son and I went to Ted Reeves to get rid of several bags of garbage and it was awesome – no waits, no pickets, no problems.  In fact I dare say that it was easier than having to get all my garbage ready for garbage day which isn’t always all that convenient.

A few thoughts:

Smell

strike6

The dump didn’t smell too bad, but you could detect it from fairly far away – I feel sorry for the people who live across from the dump since they will probably suffer for the length of the strike.

Union

Where were the picketers?  It would piss me off to no end to have to wait for picketers at a site where they don’t normally work but if you are going to go on strike…you have to do the dirty work.  They should have been there.

Union II

I’ve been reading all the newspaper articles about the strike and I can’t figure out exactly what the issues are – apparently the bankable sick days are the main issue (you can cash in unused sick days when you retire).  This is similar to the UAW “job bank” scam – you really have to wonder who the heck first agreed to such a stupid idea.

I can’t imagine a reasonable union leadership wanting to strike over that one issue – yes, something is being taken from you but it’s such a thick piece of icing on the cake that I would have thought the union would just sheepishly give it up – almost embarrassed that they were ever recipients of such a silly plan.   I’ve talked to a couple of picketers over the past week and unfortunately all I could get from them was that the city was trying to “cut their benefits in half”.  Fair enough, I don’t expect every picketer to know every detail of the latest offer but unfortunately they didn’t have a clue.  They also weren’t very interested in talking about it (to me at least).

What’s the deal?

Does anyone out there have any inside scoop to this strike?  Are you in the union or management?  I want to hear your opinion.  For everyone else – are you annoyed about the strike?  Should they all be fired and just privatize?

Be Sociable, Share!

Want to learn more about RESPs? Buy The Book:

Resp-Book

The RESP Book: The Simple Guide to Registered Education Savings Plans

Everything you need to know about RESPs.

See it on Amazon now

Welcome to Money Smarts! If you're new here, please read the "About" page to find out more about this site. If you would like to receive updates by email then sign up here or you can subscribe to the RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Steve in Montreal

I’m not from TO and definitely NOT a union member. Garbage diposal is an essential service for any civilized city and thus should be performed on a regular basis. Disease, odor, vermin, etc are all associated with a build up of household garbage. They must be regulated back to work or get rid of them. Let’s hope that soon, in the 21st century, unions go extinct. They cost the taxpayers way too much money!!!!

2 Thicken My Wallet

I think our mayor is finding out the hard way what Bob Rae learned- union political support is great when you are in opposition but in power it is a double edged sword.

I would not legislate back to work since, in that case, you have to go to arbitration and arbitration is employee friendly (since they look at the last collective agreement signed- i.e. pre credit crunch- as a basis of comparison and decision making). I would see who blinks first.

I am working on a post on the same issue…

3 Cash Canuck

Not from TO. We had a garbage strike last summer (in Vancouver), and it seems kind of similar. Near the beginning, it was difficult to nail down the issues. I think this shows that both sides are still willing to negotiate. When both parties start howling about the details of the contract in the media, things are bad.

As for the bankable sick days, the union leadership almost has to make a big deal out of it. I’m sure there are older members of the TO outside union who have made those banked days a major part of their retirement plans. Like you say, what are the details? Is the employer trying to take away banked days that have already been earned, or are they merely stopping the practice of banking sick time going forward?

In a public sector strike, the employer is also sometimes motivated by cost-savings. The revenues of the city remain the same (taxes), but the costs go way way down during the term of the strike because there are far less staff to pay. BTW garbage collection is NOT essential service.

4 Mike

I read one quote from a striker where he suggested that he would be fine losing the bankable sick days as long as they can keep the ones already accumulated (ie no more of them can be banked).

I think that is perfectly fair since the existing days were earned under their contract so regardless of what you think about them – they should be kept.

5 nobleea

it seems like this happens every few years in Toronto. and I hear they have cancelled canada day celebrations, due to the strike.

there are times when a red-neck, right wing province is a good place to live. strikes like this are a great example.

if the city was smart, they’d structure the agreement such that it ends in the fall or winter. if they want to go on strike at the end of the next one, go ahead, everything will be frozen and plowing streets of snow would be considered an essential service.

6 Phil

In Windsor, where we are now into the 12th week of a garbage strike, we are watching Toronto with some interest. Very few people thought it would go on this long, though most of us have found that driving our garbage to a private dump is really not very onerous. It’s much easier for us to hold out than it is for those picking up their weekly $200 in strike pay.

CUPE soon discovered (to their suprise, would be my guess) that most Windsorites do not back the strike, but they are too proud to back down easily at this point. I believe they expected to win the fight in Windsor, giving them a bigger bargaining chip in Toronto. That strategy seems to have backfired rather spectacularly.

With the highest unemployment rate in the country, it’s hard for Windsor’s shrinking tax base to understand the need for fully funded post retirement benefits – and it’s FUTURE workers they are talking about, not current ones. Especially when city employees enjoy higher wages than most privately employed people.

CUPE is learning the hard way that the economic climate is not conducive to winning disputes over non-value added post-retirement benefits, whether they be fully funded health care in Florida, or banked sick days.

7 Mr. Cheap

They should all be fired and privatize :-). Eye, usually a pretty lefty free newspaper, posted this editorial which makes a lot of sense to me: http://www.eyeweekly.com/blog/post/64327

8 guinness416

Hey great post you seem to have covered it all here. The garbage is getting the headlines but so far it’s not too inconvenient for me really – I suggest dumping all the packaging you can at the supermarket when you shop. I feel worse for the people who have had to cancel daycare or weddings (!) which must really suck. I’m generally pretty pro-union thanks to being thoroughly indoctrinated by my NYC construction days but like anyone else I don’t know the ins and outs of the issues, not that this stops me from pontificating like everyone else!

9 as

Oh my, garbage is so fashionable today (I see Thicken My Wallet is also working on the topic):

http://financialtactics.blogspot.com/2009/06/another-mans-treasure.html

A doc suggests getting rid of Stuff – then we won’t have to deal with all the garbage stuff to the same extent. The unions will still be there, though…

10 Gaby A.

I have a simple rule of when a union is necessary: If the union members make more that the average non-union worker, and they make almost as much or more money than management without the extra responsibility, there should no longer be a need for a union.

Places where unions could be good are Walmart and England at the beginning of the industrial revolution.

Anything critical or essential should not be unionized (good for Reagan to fire all the air traffic controllers, still one of the gutsiest reactions to a strike in history that didn’t involve blood). The 416 branch even has an exemption to the paramedics under its umbrella, so where the other employees are striking, the paramedics are provintially mandated to still provide service.

11 Brendan

I do not know all the issues, but on the bankable sick time, let them keep what they already have, perhaps status quo, and grandfather the whole thing and all new hires will be subject to a new deal.
I find it amusing that all these people complain and whine about how good these jobs are, and how they do not receive the same pay or benefits.

Why not quit your job and start pitching garbage? Problem solved. Should I quit my job and go work at Canadian tire so I can get an employee discount? is it fair that THEY get one, and I don’t?

Wether it is sick time cash out, a defined pension plan, or employee discounts, free parking, free travel, concert tickets, etc, it is what it is.

Is it “fair” teachers get all summer off, plus x mas , and spring break? Who cares? I wouldn’t want to be a teacher.

I am in a union, enjoy a defined pension, as well as a sick cash out when I retire. Do I feel guilty? Nope. Am I entitled to it? You bet. It is what it is, and I knew full well the salary and benefits , hours, working conditions when I applied. Everyone who has a problem with that can also apply for a job and do what i do. I enjoy my job, and am happy with my compensation. The choice was mine.
If you are not happy, make another choice.
I do agree , however, that the union blocking the garbage drop offs is a big no no.
Striking, is one thing, but harassing the public and delaying them from just trying to cope the best they can is wrong.
Our nurses in Manitoba do the same thing. Threaten to go on strike, until the gov’t caves in and gives them nice big raises.
While i don’t agree with it, i can always go back to university and get my nursing degree.
No thanks, they can have it.

12 Mr. Cheap

Brendan: I agree with part of your comment. My brother would often get comments about how cushy his job is, and his response would be: “Why don’t you apply? They’re hiring”. At which point the person would realize that they didn’t have the aptitude, interest or education to do what he does. As you say, instead of complaining about how good someone else has it at their job, switch to it and reap the benefits yourself.

I’d say this is a different situation, because the good people of Toronto are PAYING for their sweet salaries and benefits. It is completely reasonable for people who are paying the bills to complain when they’re too high. The choice whether to work a job is the employees’, the choice of what renumeration to offer is the employers’.

Further, unions often try to get public support (often harassing the public as you thankfully agree is wrong). Once the union drags the public into the discussion, you bet your sweet ass it’s fair for people to say how good they have it (the union is just hoping they can convince the public how BAD they have it, if they actually don’t, they need to be called on that).

I do agree with you, if the union isn’t involving the public and if the public isn’t paying the bills, there’s no point for people to rant about how good other people have it (but in this situation, how would the public even know?)

13 MoneyEnergy

It’s not so simple as banning unions, everyone! There are problems on both sides. The mere fact that unions exist, I think, anywhere, says a lot about workers’ voices. I recall the Toronto strike from a few years previously. It was a mild hassle, but it reminds us that people are discontent. If they quit their jobs and work elsewhere, it will just be someone else in their position for the next time. My two cents.

14 Brendan

Public/private, it really doesn’t matter. If you think you are paying too much in taxes that pay for the services, you can move to another city. Another choice. I think some radio hosts are over paid, and I can always turn the radio off, but I still have to pay via products that I buy. I shop at store A who pays to advertise on said radio station with overpaid host. Advertising costs are passed on to the consumer.

I agree that as a tax payer you have the right to complain about things being too high. But, to dump on the workers is wrong. You feel the contract is too rich? Fine. Who signed it on the gov’t side? Vote him or her out next time.
I dont know about Toronto, but in Winnipeg people complain about taxes, and over paid workers, but they dont even go out and vote. Most winnipeggers cant even name their local school trustee, but complain when school taxes go up to pay for the “over paid teachers who get all summer off”.
Why do we tolerate a welfare class fully capable of working? Why do we pay punks millions of dollars to chase a frozen piece of rubber around a hockey rink?
Again, it is what it is. Pick something you would like to do for a living, and do it.
Not happy? Do something else.
Think a union got a pretty sweet deal? Sign up, or start attending council meetings, and vote a council that will not sign these deals.
This is a real sore spot for me. I put up with the occasional cheap shot about how “good I have it” (incidentally from people earning high salaries, and living in large 3000 sq ft homes, 2 benz’s in the driveway, etc). I am sure that i either directly or indirectly pay for their lifestyle somehow.
I feel this is unfair. I work hard, and feel that i provide a valuable service to the taxpayers I serve.

I think the real issue here is value for your dollar. I dont mind paying taxes, income, or property. It costs money to run a city and people do not work for free. So long as I am getting value for my money then i do not care.
Other than bash the lowly worker, there are other ways to cut costs. Thousands of capable people sit and collect cheques, and pump out child after child, at a huge costs to us all. Where is the outrage?
Another segment of our population that was here first, feels that we owe them, collect, and waste huge amounts of tax dollars, with no efforts being made to become self sufficient. Where is the outrage?
Let’s pick on the worker who also pays taxes, buys stuff, contributes to the economy, and maybe even coaches kids soccer.

Can’t we all just get along?

15 nobleea

Brendan;

“Thousands of capable people sit and collect cheques, and pump out child after child, at a huge costs to us all. ”
Your line of thinking suggests that we all join them and reap the benefits.

Same thing :
“Another segment of our population that was here first, feels that we owe them, collect, and waste huge amounts of tax dollars, with no efforts being made to become self sufficient.”
Marry them and get the treaty card benefits.

Unions hold a quasi monopoly due to their collective nature. How hard would it be to replace 10,000 nurses in one month?

Outside workers get 18 BANKABLE days of sick time a year because they extorted it out of the city.

16 Brendan

my points exactly. Either sit on welfare yourself or quit complaining. Marry them and get treaty rights, or quit complaining.
Get hired for that high paying union job, or quit complaining.

Unions did not extort sick time cash outs. They were negotiated fair and square in lieu of other wages or benefits.

It is what it is.

Pick something you like to do, and do it. Not happy? Do something else.

17 Phil

Brendan,
I agree that people should vote, especially if they don’t like the choices made for them by the government. They should quit whining and do something constructive. However, to vote politicians out instead of changing contracts is not the solution when the contracts were drawn up by different government officials.

What if the new set has been voted in by taxpayers who didn’t like what the old set negotiated? What if economic circumstances changed and the old contracts are no longer in line with market conditions or the city’s ability to finance their future commitments?

Also, by your line of reasoning, I often wonder why unionized employees would rather strike than seek employment elsewhere. Could it be that non-unionized employment tends to be less favourable when you add up all the pros and cons? If so, when or how does that imbalance get evened out?

18 Mike

I don’t think voting makes much of a difference – has anyone ever run on a platform of reducing government salaries?

The problem is that with unions – once one of them gets something – then they all get it. Pattern bargaining. It’s really up to the current management to fix the problem – not the voters.

19 Brendan

What if market conditions change, etc? Thats the whole point of bargaining. City’s ability to pay? If they really cant pay is one thing. On the other hand if they are wasting millions on other things, how can you cry poverty? politics, public opinion, market conditions, wages are always on the move, and changing.
A contract is a contract. Dont like it? Sit down and talk about changing it.
Personally I would not want to strike. My job is unionized. I have no choice. I love what i do, and I would do it for less money, and I would do it for more money. I work week ends, holidays, midnights. I dont care, i love it. I get a pension, and a sick time cash out. If I sisnt get those things I would still be doing my job. I love it that much. I can’t see myself doing anything else. It is what it is.

There are pros and cons to union and non union. Non union you can be compensated by how hard you work. (sometimes). Non union con you get promoted if you sleep with the boss? related to the boss?
Union cons, put in 100% and you get paid the same as a guy who puts in 60% and abuses sick time.
Union pro: we negotiate a defined pension. The downside my RSP contribution is reduced. It is what it is. If I dont like a defined plan i can quit and work elsewhere.
There is nothing to even out. if you feel there is an imbalance go work somewhere that will balance things out for you.

I work hard, love what i do, and feel I give my employers (the tax payer) good value. I enjoy a wage and benefit package that may seem fair to some, too rich to others, and some may wonder how i manage to get by on what i do. It is what it is. I am happy, and shouldnt feel bad , nor should i have to justify my job/pay.

The grass is always greener on the other side, and there is always someone, somewhere who will do ANY job for less money, private or public, union or non union.

Anyway, this is starting to get stupid. I think i will book off work tonight, after all i get paid for it. Maybe I will also get called in for overtime @ DOUBLE time on my days off, plus mileage to drive in for OT.
Hopefully not tomorrow because I was gonna go pick up my free pair of shoes i get every year.

20 Brendan

Mike, the private industry works the same way.
Tradsepeople make X amount of money. Calgary starts to pay more. People move to Calgary. Soon no workers left, and wages climb. People move back from Calgary.
Union or non union wages will be comparable across the country give or take.
Actually law works the same way. Precedent set, precedent followed.
Safety standards, same thing. What become the standard in one province, will soon become standard everywhere.

I dont have to book off today because it is my birthday and I get birthdays off with pay, as well as company supplied gum so I always have fresh breath.

21 Mike

Brendan in private industry and non-union environments the pay movements go both ways ie up and down. Government employees rarely lose anything no matter what the economic circumstances are.

22 john smith

Im from TO and Im a union member. Im using a friends computer and a fake name so I feel relatively ‘safe’ to say this: the union workers KNOW its mainly for bankable sick days as you call them but we were told to say ‘they’re trying to severely cut our benefits”. The worker who spoke to you was telling you the line. We have NO choice to oppose our union leaders and I’m ashamed to say that most of the members have a ‘gimmie gimmie’ attitude anyway. Its like grandpa simpson on the simpsons whenever they bring up government handouts for the elderly. The union is the same ‘gimmie!” I dont mind telling you this because Im sick of pretending we are fighting for something important. The union bigwigs are plenty angry but they also thankful that millar is such a ‘weakling’. He wants to think he is one of us. Its sad. I’m sure theyll be other union members on here who will curse me out. My reply: go f** yourself –Im tired of pretending we are right in this. We aren’t and you know it “brothers”.

23 john smith

PS the simpsons example is not a swipe at the elderly but for you fellow simpson fans outhere: you know what Im referring to. Grandpa doesnt know what he is fighting for half the time but once he hears ‘benefits’ he just wants to get paid. By the way like the windsor union the union here is too proud to admit we were wrong on this. Many members say that Torontonians are on our side! Hilarious I know. I have my eyes wide open though. They hate our guts right now !
im not coming on here again because I dont want to get into an argument with one of my union ‘brothers’ who Im sure will show up to curse out what i said. Again my response to them is to go F** themselves.

24 john smith

PPS couldn’t resist: you know the 3% increase the fireman etc got. shhhh we just want it because we think we can get it. some of my fellow ‘brothers’ say we are like ‘fireman or police but for sanitation’ nice huh? you see unlike them I dont actually sniff the garbage I through in at the back of the truck. (recap to my fellow union bros: you know what you can go do)

25 centrist

Good points by many posters.

From my point of view I am finding the whinging petty. looking at larger organizations, Statscan has union wages/benefits about 6% more compared to the private sector. Because CND median wages, adjusted for real inflation, have stagnated since the early 1980′s and family indebtedness grows year by year I find it hard to focus on unions as the main problem Canadian middle-class families are confronting. My view is stagnating income is killing the N.A. middle class.

26 MLR

In Philadelphia, its looking more and more like Septa (the transit system) is going to go on strike for a few reasons.

But most of the reasons have to do with a down economy (eg the city saying “We are slashing budgets on schools, closing libraries and fire departments, etc… we can’t afford to give you a raise.”). It makes me really mad at the Septa union, especially because they are using Septa’s surplus to attack them. Uh, I would like them to have a surplus to perform maintenance and cover unexpected expenses with something other than fare hikes.

27 nancy (aka money coach)

@Brendan Whoever you are, and wherever you work – you rock! Thanks for jumping in with punchy, good, unexpected arguments. Whether or not I or anyone agreed with you, you sure woke me up.

28 Mark

Brendan, your arguments are absurd, I accept that the Unions have the ability (dare I say obligation) to negotiate whatever deal they can get. But I know of no other negotiation where, when one party doesn’t like the deal on the table it gets to shut the othe party down?! If the Union doesn’t like the deal they are being offered the city should be free to go and hire another group of people that will work for that package. But the idea that a Union can hold a business, or city hostage over terms belongs to a different age.

And despite your generous offer of employment, we can’t all work for the city….

29 Brendan

I agree a union should not be able to hold a city/business hostage. My union certainly does not.
But let’s face it, the pendulum is always in motion. Why were there unions in the first place? Poor working conditions, kids working in mines, etc.
There are times when the public sector falls behind the private sector. Then they catch up, sometimes moving ahead. Cat and mouse.

Mark, not everybody can work for the city. But, have you applied? Sometimes it takes a few years, and despite “anybody can do those jobs”, not everybody makes the cut. Either they lack the physical strength, or perhaps they actually have to work harder than they thought they would?
And yes unions have an obligation to negotiate whatever deal they can get. Same goes for the employer. Ditto for the business owner who tries to negotiate the best lease for a warehouse. I am sure you try to negotiate the best deal for you and your family when buying a house, car, or shopping for groceries.
Seriously we all want low taxes, and it is easy to dump on workers. If a sick time cash out is the sore spot, I can see why. You may think it is absurd, but the reality is that it was negotiated fair and square. To take that away from someone without consideration is wrong.
How would you like your employer after years of service to decide not to pay you your pension, or something else you were promised as compensation?

Everybody wants the best deal in life for themselves, but are willing to do it at the expense of others.
Union wants to strike? Fire them I want low taxes. Close the wadding pools, but NOT in my area. I want lower taxes, but corporations should pay more tax, except the company I work for.

Maybe it is sour grapes, and being jealous. Who cares?
Pick a job you like and go to work. Not happy, and want perks that “other” people enjoy? Then find out how to land that job. Don’t dump on the guy who did.

Speaking of negotiations I am gonna suggest double overtime when i have to travel on my days off to get free clothing for my job. Plus maybe mileage reimbursement , and possibly a “stress compensation fee”.

God Torontonians it is just a little bit of garbage. What would you do if you got a big snowfall, call in the army? Oh wait you actually did.

30 Hector

Will the city refund its citizens portion of the the taxes earmarked for
garbage removal? This would only be fair!!!!

A thought….. as there is no contract in place at present why can’t the striking workers be fired and new ones be hired……..

31 Gates VP

@Mike: Should they all be fired and just privatize?

Nah, I think you’re swinging too far on both ends. Can’t we just “de-unionize” government work? We don’t need to farm it off to 3rd-parties, we just don’t need unions.

We’ve thrown around the idea “essential services”, but frankly, they’re all “essential services”. If we didn’t think the job was essential to the functioning of our community we would have left it to the private sector.

The whole point of government services are that we’ve all kind of agreed that we want these services to be available, for the greater good on a not-for-profit basis. Ideally, we want them at a sustainable but
competitive price.

So we can’t “tyranically” abuse them, we can’t underpay them, we just want them to make a fair living administering our programs in a timely fashion.

So why are the Unions even involved in government work?
Are we really worried that our government workers are going to suffer systemic abuse?
Isn’t a free market a fair way to price jobs?

Personally, I feel for you guys in TO. But really I feel for every Canadian left to suffer the tyranny of government unions. Honestly, we don’t need to fire people, the government workers are hardly the problem. We simply need to get rid of the unions and allow the free market to dictate wages.

32 Mike

Gates – I think “de-unionizing” government workers is a great solution. The only problem is how do you accomplish that without firing most of them?

33 Russ

Just a thought … If Toronto residents are really fed up being held hostage under mounds of garbage, why not simply dump your garbage off in front of those picket lines of striking civil servants? Similarly, why not dump your garbage off at municipal offices, police stations, the mayor’s residence, the residence’s of City councilors, etc.? Wouldn’t that make cleanup easier once the strike is over? (Always think ahead!).

If anything, once opposing sides in this dispute are directly exposed to the rotting refuse they so flagrantly inflict on local citizenry, the smell alone might help remind them that their primary commitment is to the taxpayer!

Personally, and as a rural resident, I have no great love for the hopelessly gridlocked, multi-confused ‘Big Smoke’ or whatever misery its residents so willfully endure. It could be argued that the smell of rotting garbage is a noticeable improvement. It’s all part of the “Manhattanization” experiment you sewer rats were all so fond of.

34 Gates VP

@Tony: it’s easy to paint a picture of the strikers of amoral turds, but we’re the ones who voted in the system.
Unions really have only one tool, strike.
Normally the employers have an equally powerful tool: close up shop. Unfortunately the government does not really have that option so we end up with these stupid face-offs. (see my post above)

However, I have a difficult time blaming the workers for a situation that we, the taxpayers, have endorsed. If we did not want them to strike, we would have eliminated the unions long ago.

@Russ: I love your good old-fashioned Canadian passive-aggressiveness. I don’t see much of that here in the US :)

@Mike: I honestly don’t think we need to actually “fire” most of them (short of a legal “fire then re-sign”). Having dealt with quite a bit of government workers they’re already very well-paid and most of them have a healthy body of very domain-specific knowledge. We probably couldn’t replace a lot of them if we wanted to.

One could argue that some workers will get fired by tyrant managers once their Union protection dissolves, but I don’t expect that tyrant managers will feel significantly safer.

Honestly, I’d expect a smart “de-unionization” to have very few short-term effects (other than a bunch of ruffled feathers). Just business as normal for most. I think most of the changes will happen over time as the government slowly cleans out workers that shouldn’t be there and possibly finds a way to attract talent instead of security-seekers.

It would also allow some longer-term input into the standards of living we expect to provide workers.

Right now, city garbage workers are making well above median salary even before good benefits. The tech workers I met were well above market rates. I left a government gig b/c my consultant salary was lower than the people I was responsible for. This was at the provincial level, federal workers were making even more.

I used to work lifeguarding / instructing for the city, had friends doing wading pools. The pay was great in both cases. My wife worked the rec centers and enjoyed her job. Her salary was definitely livable even at entry-level.

On average, every government job I’ve worked (except the consulting) has paid above median/market wages for what they were doing.

I would expect such government jobs to be highly sought-after, but the Unionized structure has really turned people away. Having been there for a while it can definitely be soul-sucking.

I personally hope that removing that Union can entice those people who want to “get stuff done” rather than “put in their 36.25 hours”. That would benefit all of us.

35 Mike

Gates – you talk like removing the union is as easy as putting out the garbage (haha). The only way to remove the union is to completely break it – by firing them.

See Ronald Reagan and the air traffic controllers.

36 Martin

I’m just glad I don’t live in Toronto. Wow

37 Victor

“Either sit on welfare yourself or quit complaining. Marry them and get treaty rights, or quit complaining.”

Brendan, with all due respect, it seems to me that if everyone followed your line of reasoning, the economy as we know it would cease to function. As others have said, taxpayers are paying the bills and have every right to complain when they are not getting value for money.

If I don’t like the prices at store A, I shop at store B, but if only store A exists and provides something I need, I would definitely complain about unreasonable price increases.

38 Victor

@Mike – Brendan in private industry and non-union environments the pay movements go both ways ie up and down. Government employees rarely lose anything no matter what the economic circumstances are.

Excellent point.

I think we need to decouple the ‘union’ issue from the ‘public/private’ issue. It should be a wake-up call that many private companies with unions are suffering more than their non-union competitors. *cough* Stelco *cough* GM *cough*.

In Canada, I heard the stat that public workers make 20% more than private sector workers for equivalent work. 20%!

39 Brendan

Victor, I was complaining about welfare people (capable), and a certain “peoples” of Canada . I did not suggest going on welfare, or marrying a treaty person. Whoever quoted this was using my own logic for MY complaints.
I agree with tax payers expecting value for money. I am a taxpayer too.
My point is that you can vote different councillors in office. You can leave your city for lower taxes. You can even move into a smaller house to pay less taxes. Choice.
It’s all about choice.
I am sick of people blaming everyone else . “Fire them all!” “get rid of unions!”
“Cut my salary because customers want lower prices!!”, uhh wait a minute, no that’s not fair!
If you think 20% more is outlandish then quit your job and go work for 20% more. Why dump on someone else?
What is so wrong with wanting the most for ourselves, and our famillies?
We all do.

40 Gates VP

@Brendan: If you think 20% more is outlandish then quit your job and go work for 20% more.

I don’t think “20% more is outlandish” is really the core of the problem. The core of the problem is that even though they get 20% more, they’re still allowed to strike. And it’s not like we can just hire their competitor and fire them all. There is no competitor. We wiped out all competitors by “socializing” the whole garbage collection process.

So as a taxpayer, I’m not angry that they’re “making more money”, I’m angry that I’m not getting my money’s worth. I’m angry that we’re being held for ransom by our own people.

@Mike: yes, I’m over-simplifying the process of removing the union :)
But no matter how complex or simple you make the process, it seems pretty clear to me that the unions are costing Canadians lots of tax money and stifling the productivity of government workers.

41 Mike

Gates – I couldn’t agree more on both your points!

42 Mike

These strikers are trying to bankrupt the city.
They feel it is okay to not make concessions, but rather demand they usual raise in he middle of a recession, while our swimming pools are being shutdown.
Even the CAW made concessions, but these CUPE workers want to to keep what they what they have, which is too much ina nd of itself, and they want more.
We need garbage collection to be pritivized and untimately done at a CHEAPER cost to the taxpayer
Windsor citizens are picketing CUPE, and putting garbage at the CUPE office. Toronto citizens should follow suit

43 Mike

so we need to put up with the stike and support the city for as long as possible and make the union capitulate. Taxpayers should not pay 18 bankable sick days. The whole idea of bankable sick days is a scam and taxpayer abuse.

44 Julie

Yes the garbage is nasty but the thing that bugs me the most is that countless kids have had their summers totally ruined and many university students who depend on jobs to pay for school are out of work. It really bugs me that the unions have such a sense of entitlement that they are ok with cheating little kids out of there summer fun. Unions were created to protect the working class well guess who uses the public services they have taken away the most. In this poor economic time many people were depending on the public summer camps and day care systems. However, in truth the unions are so manipulative that they are most likely loveing all the hurt they are casueing. A 7 year old girl I often baby sit is absolutly heart broken over the fact that she can’t go to camp for the first time ever. To me that is the most important issue kids desever a summer and to me most unions are nothing but bullies this point is proven by the fact that companies such as got junk and other private waste disposal companies have recived death threats. Sick days are like insurance you only get insurance money when you crash your car if you don’t crash you don’t get the money guess what if your not sick you don’t get a sick day I know this may be a shocking concept to some union members but how about you join the real world. No one else has job security, no one else gets to cash in their sick days. I beleive that Toronto should privatize waste disposal end of story. Mayor Miller has been nice enough in the past to give the unoins everything they want so it is no wonder they think they can walk all over the city so i think it is finally time that Toronto says no to the unions.

45 DZ

Wonderful banter from you all so far. Brendan you are a blast of wit.

I am a city worker, Cupe 79 for over 25 years now.
90% members 2000 voted for a strike. There is an approximate total of 18,000 members in my union. Do the math. Did majority rule on this one? Yet it appears we are ALL being subjected to comments bordering on hate mail, slander and ridicule.

1 day to vote on short notice, at only 1 location in the middle of no where in Scarborough, on a Sunday. Many of us work rotating shifts/7 days per week as well as families to take care of, etc. All levels of government offer more than 1 poling station. We are not afforded that luxury.

We the strikers are not enjoying this at all. Cupe 79 is a female dominated (no offence boys) union consisting of social workers, housing workers, hostel workers, public health staff, daycare workers, community outreach staff, parks staff to name only a few. We are the caretakers of the city, we fight and advocate for the less fortunate, the elderly, the ill and the young. Our jobs grew out of a social need many decades ago; mostly originating in the churches, hospitals, women’s volunteer organisations, etc. As our jobs were created to fulfill a need for caregivers; women at the time were the natural candidates. We many not have been able to vote at the time but we did the charity work anyway to help our communities.

And still to this day we spend everyday helping people that the rest of society would prefer to forget about. We try to help to make life more liveable for many of our citizens.

We advocate daily (til we lose our own sanity) to get more for the citizens in our society, yet only the elected and upper management get to make the decisions and they seem to like funding cuts. Then as usual, we the frontline staff, get all the hate mail, abuse, verbal assaults and more from both our management AND the public. We get it from both directions top down and from outside.

Like Brendan says, we do these jobs because we care, we believe in creating a civil society. We are dedicated even though we face daily challenges and abuse I never saw or have yet to see in the private sector. I am paid to take the abuse, but don’t think for a minute that it doesn’t eventually take it’s toll on me and my family. My family says to fight back; they don’t understand that as public servants we cannot so that. We are the peacemakers in the arguments from the public.

You try our jobs for week- try walking alone into rat and cockroach infested homes not knowing who will be answering the door or how violent or high they could be; try working in Seaton House for 1 night; or watch the elderly languish in homes for aged without family visiting them and feel our pain of knowing we are the only highlight of their day because their family couldn’t care less about them; try to go home after work wondering if the woman you just interviewed will make it through another night with her abusive partner and what about their children who get to watch it all; try reaching down pick up clutter in our parks wondering if this is the day you will get stabbed by a dirty drug needle.

Yes, we get a decent pay, our benefits and pensions are not as gold-plated as you think. And our monthly pension amount will be reduced by the amount of CPP and OAS we get.

Our unused sick days can be banked, just like your vacation days can be carried over to the next year, but the real reason for sick bank is if we get seriously ill this bank acts in lieu of a short term disability plan until LTD kicks in after 6 months of illness. This sick bank means we do not need to apply for EI, thus leaving the money there for those who need it. But a bad pregnancy or 2 or a serious illness, can eradicate that bank in one swoop and it’s gone forever.

The intent of the sick bank is not to use it, save it for serious illnesses, non WSIB injuries, etc. Try proving that the Hepatitis you just got diagnosed with was work related months after you picked up that dirty needle. Try proving to WSIB that you contracted scabies or lice during one of your home visits to some client or hostel.

I am sorry, but I just couldn’t take anymore of the bashing we, as a whole, are being subjected to.

On day 1 of the strike a previous co-worker of mine was purposely struck by a car while on picket duty. That was day 1 of the strike!! The police have charged many of the public for acts of violence but it seems the media only cares to report about the 1 employee who has been charged. As usual the abuse city employees have to endure never gets reported. Has no one ever questioned why welfare offices have Plexiglas windows between staff and clients? They are not there to make a fashion statement.

All said and done, I would love to go back to work. I love what I do for society and the people I help. And I know its a thankless job, but that 1 client every so often that hugs me makes it all worthwhile.
Yet now all this uninformed and unjust lashing out at us makes me wonder why I continue and has me in tears. In my youth, I could have chosen to remain in the private sector, taking it easy and getting merit pay raises and promotions. Yet, due to my civic nature I chose Community Neighbourhood Services and now even if I left because of the myths about public service employees I would never get hired.

And if we get fired, as so many are wishing; enjoy the devastation it will cause to our society. By the way our jobs are much specialised and so are our computer systems. It takes a good year to really learn my job and it changes every time new management comes in or some political leader cuts funding to YOUR programs and services.

Doesnt anyone remember that Harris was well advised that amalgamation would cost more money to run a city with of a population of 2.6M than 6 cities of smaller population?
And then there was the downloading of costs for the Social Programs to all Ontario Municipalities. Our cities budgets ballooned once this happened and the Province got to say they reduced the deficit by doing so. Yep, they just handed over the debt to our cities and came out looking great. Yet the city has no means of revenue except property taxes. Yet us city employees are the ones being blamed right now; not the poor policy decisons our politicians put into action against all advice to the contrary.

46 Brendan

DZ, nice post. I wish i could write as well as you. Most of the time I cannot get my thoughts out properly, and they come out sounding wrong.
Life happens, and it aint perfect.
We can all look at others and think they are over paid, redundant, waste of money, I work harder than they do, blah blah blah.
Senate? Waste of money. Governor General who wasn’t even born here, waste of money. I think it is horrible there are billionaires paying no tax because of tax laws written specifically for them. (thank god none of our Prime Ministers abused this with a shipping company).
Lot’s of things in my opinion are very wrong. You can also find people who disagree with things I hate, and will argue the other side.
I can respect that, even though I know deep down they are wrong, and silly.
Bottom line deal with it. Not happy? Change it.
Stop worrying about everyone else’s predicaments. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and nothing will change.
Worry about yourself, and your family. Take what you can, while you can from whoever you can. There is so much waste in this country. Nothing will change so take as much pie as you can. If you don’t, someone else will eat your piece anyway. That would suck.

I am curious as to DZ having a pension reduced by the CPP and OAS amount.
My own “gold plated” pension that i do not deserve will be reduced by the amount of OAS I receive should I be fortunate to live that long. something to do with being fronted a little bit more in the beginning. I believe this was negotiated or something.
Did your pension board negotiate something to that effect?
is THAT fair? How come people with no pensions, but rather large RSP’s dont get their CPP/OAS reduced? After all as a taxpayer I paid for the RSP via tax refunds given to the contributor?
Why don’t we all just quit working? Whats the point?
Lets just live like Little house on the prairie , chop wood, and grow our own food.
We are all like pieces of a jig saw puzzle of life. Like it or not, all pieces are needed or the puzzle will be incomplete. We are interdependent on one another, and in some way directly, or indirectly we all have an impact on each others lives financially, and what not.

Group hug time for everyone from the lowly overpaid unionized city worker, all the way to the PM himself. Heck even lawyers, and CRA auditors can get in on the hug, as well as the Governor General too.

Someday you will need a cop, fireman, teacher, doctor, nurse, accountant, governor general , senator, hockey player, businessman, politician, millionaire, union worker, non union worker, etc.
And when you do need them, you will be glad that they are there to do what you need them to do. Does it really matter what they get paid, or what hours they work, how good their pension is, or if they can bank sick days, and you can’t?
What matters is that they were there for you to do what you either didnt want to do, or couldn’t do, so that you could do what you want, or need to do.

I am Brendan, and I endorse this message

47 Brendan

One more thought. Private industry, non unionized: Dentist, lawyer, vet, etc.
No matter where you go, you always end paying the same money. They all belong to the same associations, and all adhere to the “recommended guidelines” for determining rates.
Isn’t this the same thing a union does? We are kind of held at ransome by these people.
I can’t exactly drill my own teeth, have the specialized knowledge to care for animals, nor can I charge people for emailing, faxing, licking an envelope, talking to you on the phone for 30 seconds, charging you to research something I should know because I went to law school, and have been specialized in this area for 20 years, and you are the 1,000,000th person to see me about this issue, but I will “research” it anyway, and charge you.
Sure, free markets you say, but if everyone charges the same amount it is a monopoly.
Where is the governor general when you need her?

48 DZ

@Brendan: thanks so much for the response. You actually put a short smile on my teary face. I really appreciate the compliment on my writing skills. Especially after everyone in the news is saying City employees are uneducated monkeys.

By the way I am neither pro nor anti union biased. It’s just a reality I have to work with.
Actually CUPE 79 does a tremendous amount of lobbying and advocacy for woman’s rights, children’s rights, daycare improvements, increases to the minimum wage. if one really took the time to look they would be amazed at all the lobbying our City union does on behalf of the public. Where do you think Pay Equity originated and many in the private sector received gains with that legislation both male and female.

RE: CUPE 79 pensions.
yes, Brenadan my local does not get the same pension perks that other Private sector unions or other City Unions get. Police, Fire, etc. Negotiated much better plans as well as supplemental plans on top of their exisiting plans. Apparently the work they do is more imortant than ours.

Keep in mind CUPE 79 is traditioanlly a female dominated industry. I suppose we are supposed to have rich husbands to take care of us in old age, rather than be paid equitably compared to male dominated industries.

And out pension contributions were frrozen for over 10 years in the 80/90′s. (Yes our pension contributions come off as a source deduction) But OMERS somehow made too much money and we we not permitted to contribute for over a decade; even today we afre stil at a reduced contribution level. RRSP’s aren’t regulated like that.

My latest OMERS projection states that when I retire at 65 I will receive $14,000.00 per year after the CPP and OAS amounts are deducted from my pension amount.

As an employee hired in the 80′s we were not aloowed to join the pension until we gained permancy which usually took 7 years to get. Add a 10 year contribution freeze, maternity leaves, etc. And we don’t go into retirement as well off as some think.

POINT OF FACt:
I have worked at the City for since 1985 and this is only our 3rd strike. The first lasted less than 1 day in the very early 90′s. Then we said nothing until the sttrike of 2002 after amalgamation destroyed City Services Budgets and we were told,as now, that the staff are going to be the ones to subsidize the City’s budget shortfalls rather than fight with the Province and Feds to give municipalities their fair share of the Income Tax revenue.

Take my word for it; the Feds rarely paid up on their cost sharing portion to the municipalities. i.e. 1980-1990′s the Feds were required to re-imburse Social Services for the Welfafre costs for new immigrants for their first year of new life in Canada. How often or quickly do you think the Feds paid up. The accounts were years into arrears.

Without our municipalities there would be no need for Provincial or Federal Goverments as there would be no economy, no industry, no society,etc. to keep Canada operating and liveable.

P.S. if we are in such a recession then why were housing sales up 27% in June 2009 compared to June 2008? That doesn’t sound like a recession to me. Why did Ford have an unpreceidented increase in car sales the other month; one like they haven’t seen in decades?

Stop listening to the mainstream media and pick up a book that fully explains where all this fear is really coming from. I can suggest several authors. Linda McQuaig, Noam Chomsky, etc.

49 Sam

The union has reached a new low blocking a private medical transportation company. They have already ruined kids summers, sent death threats, damaged peoples cars, assulted people trying to dump garbage and now they are knowingly putting peoples lives at risk. The sense of entilment of the union workers is infuriateing by blocking a medical transportation company they are basically saying that there demands are more important than the lives of others. I was also infuriated when the head of the indoor workers claimed that she was being treated unfairly because she was a women and that fire fighters and police got a better deal because they are represented by men. It is people like her that give women a bad name. Yes, fireman and police have a better deal maybe it is becuase there is HUGE diffrence between a garbage man or day care worker and a fireman. The most maddening thing about the strike is the patent absurdity of the workers claims that they are treated unfairly by the city. Employees of the city of Toronto typically earn much, much more than the market value of their work. According to government statistics, the average security guard in Toronto earns $12 per hour, while a Security Reception Officer with the city earns $23.90 per hour. Light Duty Cleaners out in the private sector have an average wage of $11.90 per hour while their counterparts on the city payroll make $21.30 per hour. Cooks for the city make more than double their market value at $25.02 per hour. I have read a number of books by Noam Chomsky but i find the idea that the idea that the economic crisis is made up ignorant. The unions near-callous disregard for the economic environment the most enraging element of the work action. As the unemployment rate in Toronto hits 9.1 per cent, most of us have friends and relatives who have been laid off. After all, in a survey released this week by Toronto law firm Rubin Thomlinson, 56 per cent of companies reported having recently laid off staff. Most of us worry that our jobs might disappear overnight, leaving us scrambling to pay rent and buy food in the same survey, more than half of companies anticipated further staff cuts in the near future. So yeah, during a worldwide economic crisis , its kind of annoying to hear union representatives casually dismiss the citys budget problems as some kind of drummed-up excuse. Also the massive affect this strike is having on tourism is deffinatly not going to help the budget issues of the city. I liked the comparison julie made between sick days and insurance guess what i get 8 sick days you have more then double the sick days so i have no sympathy for union workers everyone works hard and here is alittle secret life is not fair. You want to know why there is hostility towards city workers it is becuase currently they are going out of there way to be a nusance to everyone.

The one pro thing about this garbage strike is that people are finally takeing into acount the amount of waste they produce.

50 Gates VP

Wow, leave a thread for a few days and it goes berserk :)

@Mike: Between you and @DZ, you’ve hit on another fundamental organization flaw. It goes hand-in-hand with the Unionization issue, it’s the taxation structure.

The Canadian structure currently pays primarily into the top level, the Federal level. So you’ll pay 35% into the federal level, 10% into the provincial and just property taxes into the municipal (city) level. The Fed transfers money back out to the provinces and municipalities (yeah, I’m sure you know this, but context for those on the outside).

Of course, the provinces are responsible for two giant, highly visible expenses: Healthcre & Education. So they generally get the money they need. The municipalities are generally cut short and the Fed consistently has the highest paid staff of the 3 levels (go figure).

Of course, the big problem here is that the Fed-level both collects and doles out most of the money. So in classic warlord fashion, the provinces get slices and the municipalities fight for the crumbs. In (mild) defense of the city workers, imagine what it feels like to make 15% less as a city engineer than as a provincial engineer. Same job, two buildings over and there is nothing (legal) that you can ever do to supplant that other person.

So at some level municipal workers naturally feel like they’re being underpaid b/c their other government workers are all making more. Of course, the municipal workers are making more than the average private workers, but we all know that’s not what people normally look at.

But back to the original point. The whole problem stems from the fact that we don’t actually pay taxes to the people who use them. Canada has this very screwy, non-transparent method for taxation and spending of tax dollars.

Basically every municipality and province is dependent on government transfers, but the process for this isn’t transparent. Though there may be a good reason for some level of Federal transfer payments or even inter-provincial “support payments”, it’s not really clear why all of this is done, or even what these transfers are costing us. Heck, b/c of the transfers, it’s not even clear how much money any province/municipality actually has.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still think that we should get rid of the unions. But if you’re a union worker who figures that TO has a giant pot of money to work with then you can justify the strike. And, as above, there is definitely some basis for the illusion that TO has a giant pot of money.

Frankly the various Canadian government(s) don’t really have much money. They’re barely breaking even and still operating a significant debt. And they have a heavily taxed population that drops between 40 to 60% of its income into taxes (think Federal, Provincial, Property, Gas, Cigs/Alcohol, GST/PST/HST). It’s not like the government can hike taxes another 5%. If anything, the fight is going the other way (which probably means lower government wages).

@DZ: Add a 10 year contribution freeze, maternity leaves, etc. And we dont go into retirement as well off as some think.
Yeah, that’s OK, I honestly want you guys to work after retirement. No, I mean it.

I have some family in the teaching profession. One retired a few years back (at age 55), after 30 years of teaching. I’m OK with the fact that his pension won’t cover his retirement. He’s going to live another 30 years, I don’t see why as a society should convert 30 years of work into 60 of living (85 with education).

Leave a Comment

Current day month ye@r *

Previous post:

Next post: