Toronto's Trash Strike
By Karen Ballum on July 16, 2009
BlogHer Original Post
I haven't been following the Toronto CUPE strike, aka the garbage strike, very closely. Whenever it comes up I usually think that I'm very happy I don't live there at the moment go on to other shinier objects. The strike is now in its fourth week though. Four weeks of garbage piling up in city parks. Four weeks of kids without daycare. Four weeks of the union and the city having "they said/they said" conversations in the media. Four weeks and best I can tell it's not any closer to being over.
The most visible (and smelliest) sign of the strike is the piles of garbage. At Different but good S posted some pictures of the piles of garbage that have been accumulating at make-shift dumping grounds in public parks (as deemed by the city, people are not randomly dumping in parks...much). She raises some health concerns.
Pretty Crazy eh?
And just so you know, maggots are multiplying and rats are reproducing as I type this. What will happen when and if the garbage is removed? Are we inviting a new bout of the plague?
Angry egg reminds us that while the garbage is visible it's not the only thing in the city that is being impacted by the strike.
I feel really bad for the parents who had to make other arrangements for daycare. I feel even worse for the kids (largely lower income) who relied on the pools and community centres for a place to go in the summer. These people have been lost in the fray while everyone else bitches about something they have some control over.
Rositta said that the strike has impacted her household in ways she hadn't imagined, and she's not talking about her family's trash.
No, the bigger impact is on my husbands business. He has now turned down three jobs that require him to remove demolition material and take it to the local dump. This was always included in his service since there are very few homeowners who would want to take their own debris away.
There has been talk of compensating homeowners for lost services but no one can compensate us for the lost income this strike is causing us.
There appear to be more people speaking out against the strike than in favour or it but We Move To Canada posted on why we should support city workers.
We all aren't lucky enough to belong to a strong union that fights to get us better pay, benefits or working conditions, or to keep what we already have. But the strong unions' efforts help all of us. That's been proven throughout history. Without the higher standards hard-fought for and won by unions, most of us would still be labouring under 19th Century conditions.
But all anyone cares about is the inconvenience to them. And of course, their taxes. "I pay their salaries! They have some nerve! I don't have bankable sick time, why should they?" Yes indeed, why should anyone have what I don't have. If I can't have it, no one should!
I've heard about this sort of thing happening before when the employer wants to buy out some previously collectively bargained benefit, and I always have a massive, visceral negative reaction. Like beyond the "No fair!" factor of a year not being equal to a year. It really is a disproportionate reaction for something that doesn't affect me personally.
I think I've figured out why I'm reacting this way: they're treating the workers with fewer years of service as though they're less loyal.
MacLean's Magazine recently wrote "Demanding Times", an article on the lack of public sympathy for public sector strikes. People who work in private companies think that the public sector has it better and viceversa.
To say all this has left regular workers feeling bitter puts it mildly. “The whole public sector is going to get tarnished” by the strike in Toronto, says Maurice Mazerolle, a labour studies professor at Ryerson University. “There are outrageous things in some public sector contracts and people are wondering, ‘What is this about? Why do you get this?’ ”
Spoiled Chinese Girl is one of those individuals that "Demanding Times" is talking about. She says that she's not good with labour disputes. If unions are the problem get rid of the unions. If government is the problem shut down (non-essential) services to the government. Or find another job.
It’s always been my opinion that if you’re not happy with your job, quit and go find a new one. If you’re not happy with the management of your job, quit your job, tell management they’re the reason you’re leaving, and find a new one. If you’re not happy with the performance of your employees, remove them and hire new staff. (I’m sure that’s surprising for some to hear since I’ve been let go in the past)
Does the general public know why the union is striking? Counting myself among them, I have to say not really. I know it has something to do with wage increases. And like Gail I've heard it has something to with sick leave.
Why are the city workers striking? According to the CityNews article above, employees want to keep 18 sick days a year which can be banked and cashed out at retirement. But the City wants to create short-term disability programs instead.
Personally, I think 18 sick days is excessive — I doubt I’ve taken 18 sick days total since 2000, let alone requested that in a single year. Who gets sick for a day and half out of every month??
Look, I don't know if the deal the city offered the union is horrible. I don't know if the offer the union offered the city is impossible. I do think, like I said in my post about the Ottawa transit strike the union isn't doing a good job of getting their message out to the public if they want support and neither is the city. If either sides wants public support they really need to sell it. It does seem though, that the days of massive public support of public section strikes seems to be diminishing. The current economic reality isn't helping. I know many people in the private sector that have been laid off in the last six months during the recession. None of those people are out there cheering for the striking union. They have pretty much zero sympathy for people who are fighting about sick days and raises. They're too busy trying to find a job. I don't know if there is ever a good time in the public eye for a strike but a recession needs to be at the top of the list of bad times.
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