The union that represents city garbage workers is opening a hot line to report any foul-ups with contracted-out collection as a private fleet of 78 trucks rolls onto west-end streets beginning Tuesday.
Mark Ferguson, head of CUPE 416, said the new phone line is one of several tactics his members will deploy to document everything from tipped bins and missed pickups to crews mixing recycling with green-bin waste.
The tactics come as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is poised to make good on a key campaign pledge, with private crews taking over all routes between Yonge Street and the Humber River starting next week. Private contractor Green for Life Environmental (GFL) holds the new $186.4-million contract with the city. The company already is responsible for curb-side collection in the former city of Etobicoke, which contracted out garbage collection before amalgamation.
A strike by unionized city workers in the summer of 2009 – and residents’ rage over mountains of garbage at make-shift dumps in city parks and parking lots – helped galvanize support for Mr. Ford’s austerity message in the campaign that followed. The work stoppage affected most city services, but it was striking garbage workers who became a symbol of what Mr. Ford vowed to fix at city hall.
Gaining city council approval last year for the private contract was a huge victory for Mr. Ford, who came to power with a vow to find and eliminate the gravy at city hall.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the public works committee, said the city will be closely monitoring service under the new contract in the coming weeks and he encouraged residents to direct complaints to the city’s 311 service, rather than the union.
“If there are any problems, we want to know about them,” said Mr. Minnan-Wong, who plans to monitor service with daily reports.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, who spearheaded Etobicoke’s move to privatize e garbage collection when he was mayor there, said there usually are snags when new routes are established. The union should be directing its energy to improving service by unionized crews east of Yonge Street, he said, rather that trying to find fault with contract workers.
Patrick Dovigi, CEO of GFL, said he plans to have extra trucks on the road in the initial weeks of the contract to ensure service is maintained.
Aside from the colour of the trucks and the uniforms on workers, he said west-end residents will see little change. Collection days will remain the same, but since GFL is using different routes, the time of collection may vary, he said.
Rob Orpin, director of collections operations for the city’s solid waste services, said GFL has worked with the staff to ensure standards are maintained.
“We are confident they have enough trucks and staff,” he said.
Mr. Ferguson said the new contract will result in job loss for 90 temporary workers. Another 165 permanent employees and 35 temporary workers are being redeployed in other areas.
“We will be monitoring very closely the collection of solid waste west of Yonge Street,” he said. “We will be doing our part to ensure the private contractor and the city is accountable for what they do with taxpayers’ dollars.”