(Originally written Aug. 7 for Town Crier.)
Did Mayor David Miller, businesses and society as a whole win or lose in the city strike?
I am looking at it from all three sides. I have also examined the labour dispute and its aftermath from perspective of the city, unions and residents. For that part of the story, click here.
It’s all losses as far as I can tell.
Many small businesses that get city trash pick-up could take garbage to temporary dumps, but let’s face it some of them had to pony up cash for a private hauler.
Some businesses also had to cancel or relocate scheduled events because the city was not issuing permits or cleaning up garbage. In some cases, non-union staff and management helped with clean up of major street festivals such as the Pride parade.
Mayor David Miller
Miller has been badly beaten up by the media, councillors in opposition to him, unions and residents. He probably lost more than most when it comes to public perception.It was hard for Miller to come out of a strike as a winner unless he was able to completely eliminate the sick bank and get pay freezes from the unions. And I don’t believe that could have been achieved in the time frame the city had.
The mayor could have taken the easy route and asked the province for back to work legislation. But he favoured a negotiated settlement and repeatedly said arbitrated settlements result in higher costs for the city. So that is a win for him in terms of not taking a gamble on arbitration and potentially higher costs for the city. In previous arbitrated contracts under this mayor and Mel Lastman before him, unions got bigger payouts and the sick banks went untouched.
So the new contracts mean lower wage hikes and a phased out sick bank. That’s a partial win under the mayor’s belt, but that’s a hard sell to the public and media.
For the mayor’s view on his leadership during the strike, see his op ed piece here for the Town Crier.
It wasn’t total anarchy. The city was pretty clean under the trashy circumstances and there was no rioting in the streets — a big win.
But let’s not cheer too loudly. I am not impressed with how we handled our garbage.
The city chose to turn parks into temporary dumps, which is a loss. I would have chosen locations away from places where kids play and residents live, such as parking lots.
The 26 dumps meant less illegal dumping because people had a place to put trash. But there were over 3,800 warnings issued because of illegal dumping. I saw first hand 196 bags of illegally dumped trash on July 14 along St. Clair Ave. West between Oakwood Ave. and Bathurst St. That’s a huge loss.
Residents did protest the dumping of garbage at Christie Pits park for example and I agree with their point. Parks are not dumps, so that’s a win for people exercising their democratic rights.
And there were confrontations between residents, politicians, strikers and management, which is clearly a loss.
“The strike showed we can descend quite quickly into uncivilized behaviour,” Councillor Joe Mihevc told me. “No one is blameless in the strike.”