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A small pile of garbage is left on the sidewalk on Spadina Ave. near Dundas St.. in Toronto
A small pile of garbage is left on the sidewalk on Spadina Ave. near Dundas St.. in Toronto

Toronto city workers on strike Add to ...

Toronto's municipal workers' strike hit hard and fast for residents of all ages Monday, from the mother in Weston forced to bring her toddler to work, to the senior locked out of her local golf course, to a 17-year-old lifeguard whose summer job is up in the air.

"It just sucks that choices some people make affect us all," said Stephanie Plateo, 17, a recent high school graduate who was to begin her summer job as a lifeguard at Etobicoke's Olympium swimming pool on Thursday.

Ms. Plateo said she was counting on the job for spending money as she gears up for her first year at George Brown College. It's a particularly bad time financially for the family: Her mother was laid off a few weeks ago after 28 years at Bell Canada; her father has seen his work as a self-employed construction project manager reduced to three days a week because of the recession.

"I was really relying on this job for the summer," said the younger Plateo, one of about two dozen young lifeguards whose work at the pool is on hold after Toronto's 24,000 unionized indoor and outdoor workers walked off the job just after midnight Monday.

The job action by locals 79 and 416 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees came just a few minutes after a 12.01 a.m. strike deadline, with city and union negotiators unable to seal a deal on five separate collective agreements.

"I didn't realize how widespread it is. I just figured it was about garbage," said Julia Mercy, 42, whose aerobics class was cancelled along with all other programs at the city's Memorial Pool and Health Club.

"I think it's a terrible thing that seniors can't get out and exercise," added Sue Shriner, a regular at the city run Scarlett Woods golf course, who gave her age as "over 65."

"I chase young men at the recreation centres. That's really the only thing that keeps me alive," Ms. Shriner said with a wink.

The strike is a significant hardship for parents with children in the city's 57 daycare centre. Denise, the mother of a 22-month-old boy, scrambled early yesterday to make other arrangements after she learned the Trimbee Infant Child Care Centre in Weston was closed.

The young mother was forced to take her child to work.

Share your stories and read those submitted by other Globe readers How has the strike affected you?

In addition to the child care dilemma, Toronto residents are also without garbage collection and a wide range of other services.

"We have no other recourse but to call a strike," said CUPE Local 79 President Ann Dembinski, who speaks for 18,000 inside workers.

Local 416 President Mark Ferguson said the city has not backed away from a series of concessions on sick days and job security.

"It's been their [the city's]intent to put us out on strike all along," he said.

He asked for patience from the public. "It may be an unpopular fight but it is a necessary fight," he said.

Early Monday, pickets gathered outside Toronto city hall, and at waste transfer stations, where residents trying to drop off their trash discovered they couldn't do so. Two transfer stations will be open around the clock and five will be open 12 hours a day if the strike drags on for more than a week, the city has said. The labour action at Nathan Philips Square prompted the city to cancel the raising of the Pride Week flag, originally scheduled for Monday.

The strike caused minor problems for the Toronto islands' 700-plus residents, most of whom commute each weekday to the mainland on a city-run ferry service. The shutdown meant turning to an alternative, cruise operator Harbour Tours, operating from its base at the foot of York Street.

A one-way ticket on a 50-passenger power boat (a one-time school bus) costs $6.50, the same as the regular ferry. During the morning and afternoon rush hour, the ad hoc taxi leaves approximately every 30 minutes, with hourly departures during the rest of the day and the evening. The service runs until 11 p.m. and is available only for island residents and their guests.

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