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Today at 11 am we received notice from the city of its intention to contract out all residential curbside collection west of Yonge street, litter operations and litterbin collections in all parks in the city, and picking up trash throughout the city on an ad-hoc or call-out basis.
We view this as an irresponsible and wrong-headed approach to the delivery of city services. It is clear to us that this administration is attempting to demonize their own employees to justify a contracting-out scenario. We know that a decision should be based on facts and analysis rather than emotion and knee-jerk policy.
We know, and informed Torontonians know, that this decision is not about money. It’s about ideology and emotion. Because every measure that’s been done shows that Toronto’s in-house garbage collection is more cost-effective than that for-profit companies deliver. Last week, in fact, the Ontario Municipal Benchmarking Initiative released their 2009 results, which clearly demonstrate that the cost to collect garbage in the city of Toronto is 30 percent below the provincial average. This result is a repeat of the 2008 Benchmarking Initiative, and shows the positive, cost-saving trend of Toronto’s public trash collection.
So why contract out a service that is working well for our residents and saving them money to boot?
Since amalgamation, the union has worked with the city to reduce costs and improve efficiencies through a number of different initiatives. For instance, we negotiated new shift patterns that increased the efficiencies of all driver-loaders in the city. Secondly, we contracted-in curbside collection in the former city of York by looking at more effective routings and using existing fleet to save costs. This alone produced over $4 million annual savings to the city. Third, we have worked closely with the city to move to one-person automated garbage trucks which reduced labor costs while diminishing on-the-job injuries. It is these types of initiatives that have saved taxpayers millions of dollars. All of this has been achieved while reaching the highest diversion rate in the country. This means that we are able to keep more materials out of our landfill, protecting our environment, and saving money on landfill costs.
All the facts and I’m talking about FACTS here — clearly show that public delivery of these services is a better deal for Toronto taxpayers, and that any decisions made should be made on facts, not fury.
You’ll hear the Mayor and others cite a study by CD Howe Institute, a right-wing think tank, claiming that contracting out solid waste services will save the city $49 million a year. During his campaign, the Mayor had a different savings figure, $20 million. Now, the Mayor is saying $8 million. This fuzzy math shows contempt for the citizens of Toronto, as though the Mayor can throw out any old figure and Torontonians will buy it. Even the deputy mayor, Doug Holyday, and city staff, found the $49 million figure non-credible.
Most municipalities look soberly and carefully at the ramifications of outsourcing core city services before announcing plans to do so. Millions and millions of dollars are involved in these decisions, particularly one with as much existing capital investment as garbage collection. For the good of Toronto residents, not to mention the hundreds of employees involved, we wish Mayor Ford had taken the time to carefully analyze his plan and calculate actual costs before his announcement this morning.
Therefore, these proposals from the Ford administration aren’t about saving money. This is purely an ideological attack on the public sector workers and a favor to their friends on Bay Street. Remember that private companies have a fiduciary responsibility to deliver a return to shareholders, not to taxpayers. The profit has to come from somewhere, and usually taxpayers are the ones left holding the bag. This very model is flawed where a private company is motivated to charge more and deliver less. For public servants, the equation is exactly opposite: we are charged with delivering more service for less money.
The general trend amongst municipalities across the country is to contract-in municipal waste services because they deliver a higher quality service at a better price.
When services are contracted out, taxpayers often lose control and have limited ability to address service complaints. The rigidity of contracts prevents adjustment as needs change. For example, Toronto’s unprecedented achievement of diverting more than 60% of residential curbside waste from landfills would have been impossible to achieve with a private contractor. These contracts are inflexible and do not allow for innovative developments in the industry.
I am warning you right now that part of this formula is to hand over newly renovated yards and an entire existing fleet of trucks at a discount price to private for-profit brokers. Taxpayers would supplementing the private profits of these companies with assets the public paid for. Once these valuable assets are sold off, history has shown that cities are held hostage by for-profit companies because the capital costs of getting back into the business are insurmountable. Therefore the city has little recourse when the contract price goes up, and up.
We are willing, and have always been willing to discuss ways in which the CITY can deliver high-quality service efficiently and cost-effectively.
Asking us to bid alongside private contractors is an untenable proposal. We have little control over the variables that make up a tendered bid. We are not an employer, we have no ability to manage a workforce or to purchase capital equipment, all of which are essential to respond to a tender. It’s the CITY that manages collections in Toronto. Nevertheless we are always willing to improve how we recycle and collect garbage and perform the whole range of clean-city services at the lowest possible cost. Once again I would draw your attention to the fact that Toronto collections are 30 percent more cost effective than the provincial average. This clearly demonstrates our commitment to the residents of Toronto.