Temperatures rose yesterday and so did tempers after municipal employees formed picket lines across Toronto, shutting down daycares and sealing up garbage cans, and leaving union representatives predicting a long, stinky summertime strike.
“I’m not the least bit optimistic at this time,” said Mark Ferguson, president of Toronto Civic Employees Union Local 416 CUPE, representing the 24,000 city workers who walked off the job at midnight.
“We’ve been negotiating for six months now. Unfortunately the city wants more than a pound of flesh.”
As city officials wrapped up garbage receptacles in plastic and attached out-of-service signs to the metal bins, employees stood outside city hall picketing.
Ferguson said the union and city were “miles apart” on negotiations. City officials declined to comment yesterday on the talks.
The services affected include garbage pickup, city-run daycares, recreation centres, ferry service and summer camps, but essential services, such as police and firefighters, are still operating.
Along with issues of job security, scheduling and seniority rights, employees want to keep 18 sick days a year, which can be banked and cashed out at retirement.
At a news conference yesterday, city manager Joe Pennachetti pleaded with residents to be patient, asking them to store garbage or drive it to assigned drop-off locations.
Pedestrians will have to pocket their trash because recycling and garbage bins will be closed.
A zero-tolerance policy is also in effect for those trying to dump illegally.
The last time city workers went on strike was in 2002.
For two weeks, mounds of rotting garbage littered city streets in the midst of a muggy summer.