Several city councillors say it is premature for Mayor Rob Ford to demand community centre staff be fired over a photo that shows a city worker with his head down on his desk.
"This is way too hasty on the mayor's part,” Coun. Joe Mihevc said Thursday. He added if a councillor sees something wrong with how city staff are acting “you talk to their supervisor, ask them to do an investigation and then ask them to act appropriately."
The day before, Ward 7 Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti released a photo that he alleges shows a city employee sleeping at their desk in the weight room of the Carmine Stefano Community Centre, the same building where he has in his constituency office.
The picture, taken from just outside the doorway of an office, shows a person in a dark, long-sleeved shirt slumped at a desk.
'It's too easy to go to a microphone and say "fire someone" '- CUPE Local 79 president Tim Maguire
The photo raised a furor when it was shown to Ford, who demanded both the worker and his manager be fired if the employee was asleep on the job. He added he didn't care whether the worker was on their break or sick.
The union that represents Toronto's community centre workers said Ford's reaction was too abrupt.
Tim Maguire, president of CUPE Local 79, said the union is assisting with the city's investigation into the matter, but noted that the worker has a right to due process.
“Our assumption is that this person is on a morning break,” Maguire told host Matt Galloway on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. “It’s a right, not an excuse. But they have a right to rest on that break. Management has rights and responsibilities to investigate. It’s too easy to go to a microphone and say ‘fire someone.’ "
Maguire said the story amounts to a “media stunt” to distract from millions of dollars in budget cuts to the city's community centres.
In response to Mammoliti's statement on Wednesday that he has heard complaints for months from his constituents about the worker, Maguire said he knows who the worker is and is not aware of any previous workplace problems with him.
“There is a certain irony here,” Maguire said. “Other employees of the city, including the mayor, have been accused of things and they’ve been protected by due process. Let’s let that due process work itself out to determine if there is something inappropriate being done here.”
Reporters pointed out to the mayor on Thursday that he himself has appeared to nap at city deliberations. Ford was shown a picture of himself slouched back in a chair at a city committee meeting in 2011, his eyes closed and his arms folded across his chest.
He dismissed the picture, calling it a "ridiculous" suggestion.
"I'm not sleeping," Ford said in response to a media question. "It’s so far-fetched, it’s not funny. I don’t know, buddy, it’s not how I sleep."
After the story about the picture broke on Wednesday, Ford said he’s been working on contracting out some of the city’s parks and recreation services, but Maguire said the union hasn't heard anything to that effect.
“We’re not aware of any discussions to contract out recreation facilities,” he said. “Most of the people that work in these facilities are minimum wage or near minimum wage workers. What are you going to contract it out to?”