Mayor Rob Ford’s aim to shrink the size of the city’s work force is moving forward with plans to contract out a growing share of street maintenance jobs to the private sector.
The move is expected to save the city about $7-million annually and is part of belt-tightening efforts designed to reduce budgets at most city departments by 10 per cent next year. The proposal is included in the 2012 budget that will go to council for approval in January and would place almost all snow clearing services across the city in the hands of the private sector. In addition, street cleaning on side streets and some road maintenance would be contracted out, said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the public works committee.
“This is about 40 per cent of the efficiencies that we need to find,” said Councillor Minnan-Wong . “We can provide the same level of service.”
If successful, the change would be in place for next winter, he said.
Opponents of the mayor vowed to fight the change when the budget reaches council, arguing that road maintenance generates more complaints to the city’s 311 service and to councillors’ offices than any other matter, and more contracting out will only raise those numbers.
“You have to deliver the services residents pay for, want and need and in terms of road maintenance we are failing them year after year. That has been their number one complaint, “ Councillor Shelley Carroll said.
Representatives from the city’s outside workers union were not available for comment.
As well as the job cuts, talk of three new jobs gained attention during Tuesday’s budget talks, as news surfaced that the city was hiring three people as part of its plans to fight graffiti – a campaign pledge of the mayor and a key policy since he took office.
The three positions, two project leaders and one manager, come with salaries of between $70,000 and $100,000 and were posted in late October.
Adam Vaughan, who raised the issue during budget committee, noted the new jobs come at a time when there is a hiring freeze across the city and proposals for mass layoffs.
In response, Councillor Minnan-Wong noted that the new hires are part of a graffiti management plan endorsed by council unanimously in July. Their salaries will come from funds raised through the city’s street furniture program, rather than taxpayers.
Two of the staff will work with artists, businesses and at-risk youth in a program designed to get murals and graffiti art in designated area, city staff said, modelled on a program in Philadelphia. The third position will co-ordinate activities to combat graffiti across the city.
Councillor Vaughan said the street furniture program – funded from an advertising contract with Astral Media – was intended to support street beautification projects, not the graffiti jobs.