TORONTO — Two long weeks of stink rose from Toronto sidewalks and children’s parks seven years ago and now, on the same weekend that summer dawns, those stomach-churning aromas threaten to return.
Indoor and outdoor workers in Canada’s biggest city are warning that they are more than ready to walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. Monday if no labour agreement is reached by the strike deadline.
In the event of a labour dispute, curbside garbage collection would grind to a halt, along with various other services including those provided by child-care centres and recreation programs.
“Ordinary citizens will become the victims,” said Tonny Louie, a director with the downtown Chinatown BIA.
Louie and his family run Grossman’s Tavern there, in the heart of one of the city’s heavily visited areas. Packed with restaurants and tiny homes, he remembers the putrid debris of the municipal workers strike in July 2002.
“You really can’t have garbage laying around, because it will increase the amount of rodents and it will increase the risk of H1N1 (swine flu),” he said.
“Any time you’re dealing with health, it (should be) a mandatory service.”
The City of Toronto reiterated Saturday its willingness to keep negotiating past the deadline until new contracts are inked.
“Nobody wins in a strike,” spokesman Kevin Sack said at an afternoon news conference.
“We know that we do not want a strike of any length . . . And we will do whatever we can to make sure the most appropriate settlement gets negotiated so we can avoid it.”
Sack added he feels progress is currently being made at the bargaining table.
Following the city’s update, one of the union presidents repeated that members continue to remain firm in their plans to strike.
“We have been at the table with the City for six months. The time has come to bring these talks to a conclusion that will provide our members with a fair contract without concessions,” said Mark Ferguson, president of Toronto Civic Employees Union Local 416 CUPE, in a news release.
“It is time for the City’s negotiators to get serious about reaching a fair settlement and averting a strike so that we can continue to provide important public services to the people of Toronto.”
Three-year contracts for Local 416 and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 79 expired Dec. 31. The first union represents about 6,200 outside workers and the second about 18,000 inside workers.
Local 79 and the City have agreed to a media blackout, meaning no details of their negotiations will be made public at this time.
Earlier in the day, Local 416 spokeswoman Pat Daley said the union went into bargaining with a “pretty small package” of proposals, yet was handed 118 pages of concessions.
The city is looking to change language in policy around issues of job security, seniority and scheduling, she said.
Another strike issue revolves around proposed changes to employees’ sick plan.
“These collective agreements with both locals have been negotiated over decades with the city,” Daley said.
“To just come in and try and change everything and roll back on the way they do things in the workplace really isn’t acceptable,” she said.