Councillors readying for upcoming battle
You could call it a perfect storm for turbulent labour negotiations: Every one of Toronto’s major union contracts will expire in the next 14 months, just as the megacity faces the toughest financial challenge in its 10-year existence.
With an annual wage bill of $3.7 billion, a difference of one percentage point in wages and benefits can make a difference to city spending in the tens of millions of dollars.
With so much at stake, union leaders and politicians are already manoeuvring to weather the coming gales.
All the players are wondering how big the issue of contracting out or privatizing city services may become in the approaching negotiations. That’s a question likely to deepen the split between left- and right-wing councillors.
Councillor Case Ootes gives a foretaste: "Some of us have been trying to change the environment for a number of years, and the obstacle in large part has been certainly (Mayor David) Miller and others that feel beholden to the unions."
Miller shoots back that Ootes and his allies had their chance under former mayor Mel Lastman: "They had a six-year program of reviewing privatization and contracting out," scoffs Miller. "They came up with one thing — which was take the lowest-paid workers in the city, the cleaners, and pay them less."