Going on its 10th day today, the civic strike has brought out many views and emotions to our city. With no garbage pick-up, no day-care services and even no city-run Canada Day events…many are asking why do we not make it an essential service, while many too are against that label. We both have opposing views of granting the essential services label to the civic workers, we want to know what you think about making civic workers an essential service. Feel free to debate in the comments section.
About 30,000 city employees have been without a contract since December 31.
Negotiations broke down last Monday, with members of CUPE Local 79 and Local 416 walking off the job at 12:01am.
At issue are benefits, including sick days, seniority rights, job security and scheduling. Employees want to keep 18 sick days a year which can be banked and cashed out at retirement. But the City wants to create short-term disability programs instead.
Many residents are upset that instead of workers collecting the trash from in front of their homes, the city has set up temporary garbage sites in public parks.
There are 19 already in use, and if they fill up, more green spaces could become temporary dump sites.
“The worldwide recession has affected the city. City negotiators worked very hard to put the kind of proposals forward that would have resulted in a fair agreement. It is regrettable that those were not accepted by Locals 416 and 79. The City is facing enormous budget challenges in 2009/2010 and beyond. The cost of providing services must be in balance with the revenues the City has available to pay the bills.” Mayor David Miller
“At 9:30 [Sunday] evening, the City of Toronto tabled a proposal with Local 416, a proposal that we considered complete garbage. It was an attack, a vicious attack on our membership. And unfortunately our bargaining committee has had to take a decision to take a strike, to ensure that the collective agreement that has been negotiated over decades remains intact.” Local 416 President Mark Ferguson
- a service, facility or activity of the Government of Canada that is or will be, at any time, necessary for the safety or security of the public or a segment of the public
- forbidden by law from striking, but beneficiaries of arbitrated wage settlements that often are more lucrative than those achieved through collective bargaining
I want to first state that, like everyone else, I am equally appalled and loathe the fact that these civic workers are on strike for minute reasons (sick days among many) when we are in the midst of the worst recession in history. There are thousands upon thousands of unemployed Torontonians who would happily take their jobs with no benefits; not to mention thousands who are employed and do not even get one sick day at all…let alone 18! However, whatever disgust I have towards the unions and strikers does not change the fact that they do have the legal and constitutional right to strike. As a democratic society, anyone belonging to a union and not deemed an essential service has the legal right to strike (walk off the job) if over 50% of active union members votes in favour for a strike. If someone is working in an environment where they feel is not right, I would hope that we can all agree that they have every right to stand up for what they believe in.
Now, some will say that since we pay city taxes for it, it’s only fair that we get that service…or at least some sort of skeleton staff if a strike is necessary. Well, I do agree with that statement, but it all leads to the basic right to strike. And the City does have a skeleton staff to handle any major nuisances if necessary; there were about 100 paid non-union City workers cleaning up after the Pride Parade. I believe if the City had more money, then either the strike would’ve never happened or it would’ve had more non-union staff on hand.
Now, many will agree with the basic right to strike and then conclude then that the government should deem garbage collection as an essential service. That is a very dangerous and wrong path to take, for a couple of reasons. If garbage collection was deemed an essential service, it would automatically take that basic right to strike (and protest, to an extent), that many agree on, away from workers. Therefore, if the government takes away that right away from employees, it would have to compensate them in lieu of that right…therefore edging us more into debt. Now the most important reason why deeming garbage collection as an essential service is not the way to go: it may be smelly, it may look unpleasant and might be an inconvenience…but it is in no way an essential service where life is being threatened or the City itself is losing billions and billions of dollars everyday because of it.
An essential service is defined as a service necessary for the safety or security of the public. Hence why the police, firefighters and paramedics are rightfully deemed essential services because they are necessary for the saving of lives. Just because it smells or it looks disgusting doesn’t endanger the public. Now, if the strike goes on for months and months, and the garbage endangers the public, then yes…the government might consider making this a priority. The City has already designated 19 dump sites where residents can dispose of their garbage, therefore minimizing the overflowing of garbage everywhere.
If garbage collection is deemed an essential service, we are not only taking away the right to strike when it is not necessary, but we might as well make everything else an essential service: since one person’s inconvenience is another’s essential service.
Fact: Garbage collection is a government funded organization
Fact: It is a service that effects the entire city of Toronto
In this section we are looking at accountability. It has been argued that garbage collection does not fit the category of essential services because it doesn’t threaten the safety of the public, let’s say for the sake of this discussion that we agree to that statement. But where is the accountability?! How is a city run organization taking the city hostage?! We as tax payers pay for the service of having our garbage collected among many other city run programs.
I would like to state this from the beginning that if garbage collection was a privately owned company I would not be making this case, but the fact is that it is run by the city, and the city is here to represent the public. So, my stance is to argue that garbage collection should not be given the free reign of an independent corporation with respect to striking and should be held accountable like “essential services” sectors that have restrictive striking ability. No one is talking about taking their right to strike. What we are debating here is that government run organizations are not the same as private sector corporations and should work on a modified contract like “essential serivces” organizations.
These organizations are in place by the city for the city and as a result I would also like to add that I agree that garbage collection is not an “essential service” but unfortunately we don’t have another option. Ideally in my opinion, the government should look into a creating a separate sector similar to “essential services” for non essential government run programs, and to put into legislation a clause that puts some degree of accountability to these programs. As it stands right now, only the garbage and daycare workers are on strike. What if other government run programs go on strike all at the same time? Imagine if the TTC, garbage, daycare, libraries all went on strike at the same time? What would happen then?!
The reality is that these organizations aren’t independent, they get their funding from the government and affect the entire city of Toronto. As a result, there needs to be some alternative that stipulates that government run programs can’t simply walk off the job leaving the city high and dry, especially in a time when the hands of the government are tied due to severe budget restraints. Should the government be more concerned over making provisions for 18 sick days or ensuring that the thousands of unemployed Toronto citizens are getting their E.I.?