City moves closer to contracting out garbage service
(Written for Town Crier April 26.)
The city has moved closer to contracting out residential trash collection west of Yonge Street.
Despite every resident or group who presented to the Public Works Committee during the nine hour proceeding speaking against the idea, councillors voted 4–2 to put garbage collection out to tender along with cleaning up parks and litter vacuuming of all the city’s streets.
Public works committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong told the media privatization will reduce the size and cost of government.
“It will save us over the life of contract – $60 million,” he said.
City staff recommended the city seek bids for contracts of between five to nine years that could cost the city about $250 million. It will also reduce the city’s workforce by at least 300 jobs and save the city about $8 million a year, according to the report.
Contracting out curbside waste collection west of Yonge Street for up to nine years would be worth between $200–300 million according to what Geoff Rathbone, general manager of the solid waste management told the committee.
A seven to nine year contract for litter and recycling collection in city parks would be worth about $30 million. A five year contract to operate mechanical litter vacuums would be worth less than $20 million as would a contingency contract to pick-up residential garbage citywide (in the event of a public contract disruption).
However, not everyone agrees that this is a good idea.
Mark Ferguson president of CUPE 416, who represents garbage collection workers, said after the vote, “this is a demonstration they are prepared to contract out based on ideology and not facts.”
More than 70 people signed up to speak to councillors bemoaning the loss of good paying city jobs and casting doubts on the projected $8 million in yearly savings.
Many also raised questions about the true costs and that the city actually saved $4 million by giving garbage pick-up in York to city employees after it was previously privatized.
Councillor Perks told the Town Crier he doesn’t buy it.
“This will not save the city money,” he said. “You pay for workers, trucks and disposing of it (garbage) at the end.”
Perks said that the price for disposal is fixed no matter who does it and the trucks are cheaper for the city to buy so wages and benefits are the only potential savings, including possibly not paying workers who are injured or sick.
He also insists that because of increased legal fees, a fairness monitor and more careful scrutiny required with the private sector will also add to the cost.
“Those costs of monitoring and costs of the (private sector) profit are larger than the savings you get cutting workers wages and benefits,” said Perks.
The next step is for city council to vote May 17 on whether to send these contracts out for requests for quotations. However, it may be the last time that City Council has a say as city staff recommends the final decision on the winning bid go to the Bid Committee.
The Bid Committee is made up of the city manager, chief financial officer, the committee’s clerk and department heads but no elected officials. Normally the Bid Committee doesn’t approve contracts over $20 million or for a term of more than five years, but a staff report recommends bypassing that policy to speed up the decision and save money sooner.
“Postponing the award of contracts will delay the significant savings the city can anticipate,” states the report.
The report recommends contracting out beginning in spring or summer 2012 and each month the decision is delayed will mean the city will lose $600,000 in projected monthly savings.
Perks is concerned about the private sector bids not coming to council for scrutiny.
“All they are telling us is it will be some kind of garbage pick-up and it will be cheaper than what we have now,” Perks said. “We are being asked to spend a quarter of a billion with only that information, which is a violation of city bylaws.”
Unless council votes otherwise, the qualifying requests for quotations will come to directly to the bid committee in September for a vote on the winning bid.