Toronto workers end strike

The mountains of garbage that have accumulated around Toronto over the past month will start to disappear on Friday as the city moves to end the strike by municipal employees and clean up the streets.

Residents can put out unlimited trash, recycling for first 2 pickups

The mountains of garbage that have accumulated around Toronto over the past month will start to disappear on Friday as the city begins cleaning up the streets after a six-week strike by municipal employees.

Toronto Mayor David Miller looked pleased as he announced the resumption of all city services would begin at midnight Thursday night, just ahead of a holiday weekend.

A final hurdle was cleared later Thursday when the city's 6,000 outside workers, represented by CUPE Local 416, approved a tentative deal with the city. Union spokeswoman Pat Daley said workers were to be back on the job at 12:01 a.m. Friday, ahead of a city council meeting to consider the deal later in the day.

The outside workers' union had delayed its ratification vote by a day after a problem popped up in the back-to-work protocol.

On Wednesday, the inside workers, represented by CUPE Local 79, voted overwhelmingly to accept the tentative contract agreement reached earlier in the week, but said work wouldn't resume until both unions voted.

Anticipating approval from the last holdout union — as well as city council — the City of Toronto released details of how it will return services to normal after the strike.

"While it may take us a few days, Torontonians can expect to have all of their city services up and running by early next week," said Miller.

Although 24,000 of the city's 30,000 civic workers have been off the job since June 22, it was one particular group that captured most of the city's attention: garbage collectors.

For weary residents in Canada's largest city, the most eagerly anticipated news was that garbage collection for residential and commercial customers would resume next Tuesday. 

Residents should use their regular collection calendar to determine which material (recycling or waste) will be picked up on the first collection day following the resumption of services. In other words, don't put out garbage if the schedule calls for recycling collection.

For the first two pickups of both recycling and waste, residents will be allowed to put out unlimited amounts, and no yellow tags will be required for garbage during that time. Extra recycling should be placed in clear plastic bags.

Green bin collection will resume on the first scheduled pickup day, starting Tuesday.

Temporary dropoff sites to be cleared by Sunday night

According to Toronto city manager Joe Pennachetti, garbage collectors will be back on the job on Friday, and the piles of garbage that have accumulated in city parks and lots used as temporary garbage depots during the strike will start disappearing shortly after.

Dump sites open Saturday

Most of the city's temporary garbage dump sites will close Friday evening. Five dump sites will remain open Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. before being shut down. The five sites are:

  • Herbert H. Carnegie Centennial Arena
  • Centennial Arena Community Centre
  • Villiers St. roadway
  • Wilket Creek/Sunnybrook Park 
  • Scarborough Arena

"We expect the city and the temporary dropoff sites will be cleaned up by late Sunday," said Pennachetti.

Other services that Torontonians depend on will start to come back over the next few days:

  • Ferry service to the Toronto Islands will be back to normal by the weekend.
  • City-run daycares will reopen Tuesday.
  • Swimming pools will be cleaned and should reopen next week.
  • Summer camp registration will begin next Wednesday.
  • City service desks will be open this Friday.

The amount of work facing the cleanup crews is staggering.

Geoff Rathbone, who manages solid waste services, said more than 25,000 tons of garbage had been collected at 25 temporary dump sites around the city.

The cleanup of those sites will be a priority, said Rathbone, but first, work crews will turn their attention to the overflowing waste bins on city streets.

"Early tomorrow [Friday] morning, [we'll be] …starting the process of emptying and returning to service the city's 5,000 litter bins," Rathbone said.

The work to remove the sizable amounts of garbage in the temporary dropoff sites will start soon after and continue until they are cleaned out. Rathbone said he hopes that will be accomplished by Sunday night.

In the meantime, some temporary sites will continue to receive household trash. 

Councillors' threat to vote down deal 'disgraceful': Miller

The details of the deal between the city and its unionized employees that have leaked out have been severely criticized by some council members and some people outside government. 

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong said there could be an amendment to the agreement when it reaches council for ratification on Friday morning.

"I don't poll councillors, but I think it will be a close vote for sure," he said. 

At Thursday's news conference, Miller exploded at suggestions that some councillors might vote against the deal. 

Miller called their threat "appalling" and described their attitude as "cavalier" and "disgraceful" and their criticism of the tentative agreements as an "unwarranted attack on staff."

"Shame on them," said Miller.

On Wednesday, Miller said negotiators had managed to keep salary and benefit increases to 5.6 per cent over the life of the three-year contracts. He said that was well below the approximately 12 per cent raise the unions had been looking for.

On the controversial issue of banked sick-leave, Miller said the city negotiated an end to any future employees being able to save up unused sick days, but current employees will have the option of keeping the time they've accrued or taking a payout.

Catherine Swift of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said in a release that the "agreement certainly does not speak for the Toronto taxpayers, both citizens and businesses." 

Swift called on city councillors to turn it down. 

The labour disruption closed virtually all city services, including garbage collection, city-run daycares, swimming pools, summer day camps and the ferry service to the Toronto Islands.

With files from The Canadian Press