Windsor

City approves strike savings rebate

The City of Windsor will refund the more than $5.7 million it saved during a municipal workers strike in the form of rebates distributed equally among its taxpayers.

$72 cheques to be mailed in December

The City of Windsor will refund the more than $5.7 million it saved during a municipal workers strike in the form of rebates distributed equally among its taxpayers.

Windsor residential taxpayers, as well as business and apartment owners, can expect to receive a cheque for $72 in December. That's $6 less than what the city had anticipated because business and apartment owners had not been a part of the original calculation.

Coun. Ken Lewenza Jr., who favoured using the savings to reduce the 2010 municipal tax, said 'it just doesn't make a lot of sense to send a cheque.' ((Sean Henry/CBC))

A second option, to place the savings in a reserve fund and use the money to reduce the 2010 municipal tax by 1.4 per cent, was defeated, but not by much.

City councillors were split evenly on the issue. Mayor Eddie Francis broke their tie vote, saying the $5.7 million in savings "belong to the taxpayers, and we need to return them to the taxpayers."

"It is ridiculous to think that any municipality would enter into a strike in order to balance its fiscal budget," Francis said.

Mailing to cost up to $60,000

Mailing cheques to 73,273 taxpayers and business and apartment owners will cost the city between $50,000 and $60,000, a cost that rankled the likes of councillors Ken Lewenza Jr. and Alan Halberstadt.

"It just doesn't make a lot of sense to send a cheque," Lewenza said.

"As tempting as it is, and as sexy as it is to send out a cheque — play Santa Claus — I don't think it's the right thing to do or the fair thing to do," said Halberstadt.

The city saved the $5.7 million in unpaid wages and benefits when members of Canadian Union of Public Employees Locals 543 and 82, representing outside and inside workers, went on strike in April for 14 and 14½ weeks, respectively.

The Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association (DWBIA), Windsor Public Library and Wyandottte Town Centre Business Improvement Association together claimed $33,834 they spent on private garbage collection during the strike. Council voted against reimbursing them.

The DWBIA alone spent more than $23,000 to hire a private company to pick up trash overnight in order to avoid picketing workers.

Without that money, the DWBIA, which represents 650 businesses, will have to cut back on marketing, according to its executive director, Chris Edwards.

"Our members aren't going to be happy to hear we will now not be doing our Christmas marketing campaign," Edwards said.

Because the city didn't use the regional landfill for garbage disposal during the strike, the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority had sought $1.3 million in lost tipping fees, but that, too, was defeated. The waste authority says it is considering suing the city to recoup the money.