Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says city employees who don't accept a buyout package may be dismissed, despite saying during last year's election campaign that there would be no layoffs.
In an interview with the Sun News Network on Friday, Ford indicated "the last thing we want to do is put somebody out on the street," hence the buyout offer made by the city to about 17,000 municipal workers.
"Now if they don't take the package, what else do we have to do? We might have to lay them off. I don't know if we have a choice," said Ford, who is looking to aggressively pare labour costs, which account for around 48 per cent of the city's $9.4 billion budget.
But Ford said in a YouTube campaign video released last September that satisfactory labour savings could be had just through attrition.
"We'll promote from within to fill many important roles with people who already work for the city. No need for layoffs," Ford said at the time.
Sept. 9 deadline
Union, non-union and management employees have until Sept. 9 to accept the voluntary deal, which offers up to six months' salary.
City manager Joe Pennachetti has said he's not sure how much the buyouts will cost, since it's not yet known how many people will take the offer.
Ford said Friday "we're trying to work with these people."
"So we’re working and saying: here, here’s a package. I’d advise you to take it. What else are we going to do? If someone else can come up with a solution, let me know."
Dave Hewitt, the vice president of CUPE Local 416 which represents thousands of city workers, said in a news release on Friday that "If [the mayor] was really interested in saving money, he'd sit down with front-line workers who know where to find waste and how to make city operations run more efficiently, rather than resorting to threats and bullying."
Ford's efforts come as the city tries to close a budget gap of up to $774 million for the next fiscal year, although some critics dispute that figure, saying it's actually much lower.
As part of that effort, the city has also kicked off a comprehensive review of all city services, how they are provided, and the fees people pay for them.