With the mayoral race spreading to the airwaves, most of the candidates (Joe Pantalone being the perennial exception) are doing their best to promote the half-truth that Toronto has become a city with its feet encased in cement.
The traffic doesn’t move. The transit doesn’t move. The civic workers don’t move. The construction crews don’t move. And if that ain’t enough, the G-20 leaders will arrive at the end of June on most expensive junket in the history of mankind, bringing to a halt everything else.
In fact, a decidedly consumerist brand of impatience has become the leitmotif of the 2010 race. Responding to the incessant drumming of fingers, Rob Ford promises a sentient body at the other end of all phone calls to City Hall, a theme that was picked up and re-packaged — “pronTO”!! — last week by George Smitherman. (Never mind that neither will tell Mr. and Mrs. Irate Taxpayer how they’ll pay for Toronto’s new era of gloriously responsive customer service.)
Smitherman’s wordsmiths, in fact, have come up with a catchy phrase to describe the summer of our (imputed) discontent: “days of disruption” — a slyly suggestive slogan that binds voter angst about interminable construction, clogged highways, transit delays and striking civic unions into one seething bundle.
None of them, however, are saying anything at all about the very real potential for labour disruption that looms heavily over the next term of council. The TTC’s collective agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union expires on March 31, 2011, and the CUPE 416/79 contracts must be re-negotiated in 2012.
With Rocco Rossi, Rob Ford and Sarah Thomson all vowing to privatize garbage collection, and Smitherman pledging to at least consider it, the stage is set for an epic battle over the rarely acknowledged depth charge in CUPE’s collective agreement – the one that effectively makes it uneconomic for the city to outsource municipal services.
In case you missed the trailer:
“No permanent employee with ten (10) years of seniority shall lose his employment as a result of contracting out or privatization. Employees affected … shall have access to the Redeployment provisions of Article 28 and the Layoff and Recall provisions of Article 29. It is understood that permanent employees displaced from their jobs by reasons referred to herein will be relocated following consultation with the Union to suitable employment with the City and thereafter shall experience no loss of wages, benefits or seniority…”
Sure, the next mayor can privatize. But unless council persuades CUPE to drop the aforementioned sentences from the new collective agreement (don’t wait up), the City won’t save any money because the payroll doesn’t shrink. Thomson argues that retirements in the City’s aging workforce may give council some room to maneuver. Perhaps, but the almost inevitable showdown over the contracting-out language could make last summer’s garbage strike look like a playground spat.
Which brings us to the coming round of TTC talks, the next mayor’s first substantial task. Barring a long-shot victory by the Pantalone camp, here’s how the landscape will likely look in the run-up to March 31:
The new chair is almost certain to be a fiscal hard-ass. There will be non-politicians (i.e., business people) on the commission and lots of tough talk about shaking up TTC senior management. The Amalgamated Transit Uinon’s back, in turn, will be up for all the usual reasons, as well as the fact that the promised acceleration of the smart card deployment (from Rossi and Smitherman) could mean layoffs for ticket collectors.
Mostly, the first big labour negotiation for a new right-of-centre mayor will be viewed by everyone — voters, riders, councillors, public sector union leaders, the media — as a test of strength. In other words, they will have no choice but to figure out how to look like they’ve won, but do so without creating genuine disruption.
We asked the six major candidates stand how they’d approach the TTC talks:
Contract Goals: Premature to speculate about outcomes of negotiation
Fare Hike for 2011? Fare hike would be tied to inflation and improved service
Essential Service? Yes, with the qualifier that existing provincial arbitration laws lead to expensive settlements
Contract Goals: Won’t comment on wage goals, citing current economic uncertainty
Fare Hike for 2011? No, would lobby Queen’s Park to cover half of TTC’s operating deficit
Essential Service? No (cites CD Howe report that estimated previous TTC contract would have been $23 million more expensive under essential service designation)
Contract Goals: Looking for a hiring freeze and workforce reduction through attrition
Fare Hike for 2011? Did not provide answer
Essential Service? No, says that would drive up operating costs
Contract Goals: Looking for language that gives management more clout
Fare Hike for 2011? Wants to reduce fares
Essential Service? Yes (says unions come away with great wage settlements)
Contract Goals: Won’t talk about bargaining goals in public
Fare Hike for 2011? No (no more taxes)
Essential Service? Yes (long-standing position)
Contract Goals: Outsourcing; COL/inflation as benchmark for wage increase
Fare Hike for 2011? Fares shouldn’t rise given current service levels
Essential Service? No