Saturday, August 1, 2009

The good news of the Toronto garbage strike

There are rumblings in some Toronto media that a political shift has occurred and the tide has turned in the politics of the City of Toronto. The cause is the 39 day garbage and city workers strike that seemed to hinge on the issue of bankable sick days. The city's mayor insists that a victory was achieved and that the city will save $140 million over the next five years which amounts to an annual saving of less than 1/3 of 1% of the city's operating budget of $8.7 billion (2009). The union thinks their membership did well; obviously someone is wrong. The problem is that the city's negotiators were hamstrung. They did not have the option to negotiate with another entity like a private contractor. The city was negotiating with a city sanctioned union monopoly and no one else. This "partnership" between the city and the union benefits the union at the expense and inconvenience of the city tax payers. As a result of the strike the good news is that city tax payers are beginning to realize this as evidenced in this poll (see the PDF on the right). The idea of contracting out garbage collection (as exists in the former City of Etobicoke and many other municipalities in the GTA) is finally becoming a viable option for many Toronto voters (see the poll). Only when competition exists can prices be set that are fair both to the taxpayer and the city worker given market conditions of the day. In the midst of a recession with GTA unemployment approaching 10%, you would think that even unions would contemplate concessions. Why should they given their monopoly position? So is the mayor of Toronto right in declaring victory, or is this a wake-up call for all voters? I think its time to wake up.

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