News / Toronto

Toronto garbage workers will fight privatization plans

But union says it will look at bidding on work if city decides to privatize collection.

Mayor John Tory helps an Etobicoke homeowner take out his garbage bins Wednesday during a photo-op before Tory said he wants to contract out more garbage collection in Toronto.

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Mayor John Tory helps an Etobicoke homeowner take out his garbage bins Wednesday during a photo-op before Tory said he wants to contract out more garbage collection in Toronto.

Unionized city garbage collectors will fight Mayor John Tory’s efforts to outsource more than 200 of their jobs while “reluctantly” mulling a bid to hold onto the work if a Scarborough contract is tendered.

“The best option is to keep it in public hands, we don’t want to start selling off public services or public assets. This is ours. This is what we work for in Toronto,” Matt Figliano, vice-president of CUPE Local 416 which has an anti-privatization “Kicked to the Curb” lobbying campaign, told reporters Wednesday.

The city union is not “structured” to bid on work, Figliano said, but he will ask his 18-member board if it should take part in the “managed competition” should city council vote to outsource Scarborough collection, as recommended in a city staff report released Wednesday to applause from Tory.

“Senior management that wrote this report, that is favoring privatization, now expects us to make a bid with them. That’s a little unusual and cruel punishment,” he said.

“But I will take this back to my executive board and we’ll make a decision when the time is right.”

Before Toronto amalgamated, Etobicoke outsourced its trash collection. In 2012, then-mayor Rob Ford convinced council to contract out the rest of the city’s west half, from the Humber River to Yonge St. — a move city staff say saves taxpayers $11 million a year.

The new report, to be debated by a committee next week, recommends council consider outsourcing pickup in Scarborough but leaving, for now, east downtown with city workers.

The union could bid against private companies to retain the work.

“Managed competition procurements strike an excellent balance between conflicting positions, namely privatization and maintaining in-house service delivery, as they provide a platform to compare costs within a competitive procurement process,” the report says.

If CUPE Local 416 declines to participate, “staff recommend that the city continue to engage in a traditional procurement process to secure bids, from third party contractors qualified to provide this service.”

Tory, elected in 2014 promising to privatize collection across Toronto, summoned reporters to an Etobicoke driveway to make the case for private workers replacing some permanent city staff.

“The market needs to be tested to see if the same service can be done for less,” Tory said. The only way to do that, he added, is “to ask people to tell you how they would do it and how much they will charge you for doing it.”

“The city is presently saving millions of dollars each year by contracting out garbage collection in the west end, and I want to save money in the east end as well.”

He defended not pushing to privatize everything east of Yonge, noting the report raises logistical reasons for leaving one zone with city staff, and said he is fine with a citywide mix of private and public collectors competing to be the best.

Staff pushing privatization is an about-face from a September 2015 report that found privatizing east-end collection may actually cost the city more.

At that time, Tory and others challenged the staff report, criticizing the analysis for, Tory said, leaving “unanswered questions.” The staff report was reviewed by third party Ernst & Young, which found the analysis to be “reasonable.” The head of solid waste stopped working for the city shortly after the report’s release, and her replacement was tasked with taking another look at the privatization issue.

The new report says that, since 2015, “a number of circumstances changed” including revised fleet costs that have been completed as part of the 2017 budget.

“As a result, cost per tonne and cost per household forecasts have been revised from the original numbers presented in 2015.”

Council will have final say, and it appears Tory has sufficient support from his right-leaning and centrist allies.

Anthony Perruzza said the “information has been all over the map on this.”

“I thought we had an honest and fair assessment in the last report that basically said ‘there’s no value to proceeding with any further privatization. We can do it just as efficient and competitive a job internally.’”

Perruzza added while public sector workers might be “slightly better paid” and have better benefit packages, “that’s okay if they can provide the service at a competitive rate… Why should we run them out just for ideological belief?”

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