My Take On Toronto’s Garbage Strike


5 minute read

July 20, 2009


I’ve never been one to shy away from it, and this time around I can’t help but feel that most people would agree with my thoughts and opinions.

Come to think of it, is there anybody who agrees with the striking workers at this point?



Yes, me and controversy are like Joey Chestnut and 64 1/2 hot dogs.  No, wait….that would mean that I eat garbage.

Me and controversy are like Tom Cruise and Scientology.  No, wait….that would mean that I use garbage to lure former Dawson’s Creek stars into wedlock…

Me and controversy…..umm….what’s that one about a moth and a flame?

Honestly, I couldn’t care less at this point who I offend with my thoughts and opinions on the garbage strike, and while I took the impartial path on my post about the Tamil protesters a while back, I can’t hold in my frustrations this time around.

Let me start by being incredibly cynical: I understand the workers’ plight.  Because not just anybody is qualified to deal in human refuse.  Not just anybody can put garbage into a truck…

Seriously, let’s call this what it is: a union flexing its muscle.

I’ve never been a fan of unions…

I’m a capitalist, although I’m not a pure, hardened capitalist as I have witnessed with the rest of the world what happens when capitalism goes awry.  My Dad loves to say, “Capitalism failed!  Look at what happened to the global economy and all the bankrupt companies in the United States!”  Perhaps he has a point, but what’s the alternative?

I am, however, anything but a socialist, and I fear that the garbage strike in Toronto is an excellent example of socialism gone wild.

Forgive my naivety, but why can’t we just fire all the garbage-people and replace them with new ones?

Isn’t this possible?

What gives them the right to hold the city hostage while the streets are literally littered with rotting human waste?

Our city smells like sh!t, plain and simple.  I stepped outside my building today, and I caught a fantastic whiff that reminded me of the kybo at Camp Kawabi, circa 1986…

So why can’t the city just hire a few thousand new, “capable” people to handle our refuse?

Why can’t these striking workers be replaced?

At the risk of this becoming an unsophisticated rant, let me suggest a remedy: privatize the garbage collection.

Sure, this has been suggested before on many occasions, but it wasn’t until I read Margaret Wente’s column in Thursday’s Globe & Mail that I was really irked by how ridiculous the costs have become to continue employing public servants in this sector.

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business:

*public-sector workers across Canada earn 8 – 17% more than people with similar jobs in the private sector.

*public-sector workers’ work-weeks are only 33.5 hours compared to 37.3 in the private sector.

*calculating the value of benefits and shorter work time, the total compensation advantage adds up to 35.9% for municipal workers, 24.9% for provincial, and 41.7% for federal

As for the garbage workers, their hourly wage is twenty-percent higher than in the private sector.  As Wente writes, “They have a gold-plated benefits plan to which they contribute not a cent.  After ten years of service, their jobs are guaranteed.  Workers with top seniority get seven weeks vacation.”


These people are dealing with GARBAGE!

I remember being a kid when my parents would use “flipping burgers” and “picking up trash” as the two worst examples of occupations that could befall me if I didn’t get my act together.

Nowadays, it seems that there are huge financial gains to be made from having a job as “secure” as picking up garbage!

But what really bothers me about this is the unanswerable question: WHY?

WHY does the city continue to employ these people and give them generous pensions, benefits, and wages, when the work can be out-sourced for a third-less the cost?

Again, forgive my cynicism, but I think my evil friend socialism is the answer.

Instead of being a hardened corporate machine that grinds out every penny in every budget, our dear City of Toronto is allowing overpaid workers to keep their jobs simply so they have jobs!

This is effectively a make-work project since we know the massive benefits that privatization would bring about.  Just think of how many bike-paths David Miller could ruin the city with if only he had the costs savings from hiring outsourced garbage-people!

I know Miller is a bleeding heart; that much is apparent.  But why after nearly three weeks of this literal mess hasn’t he made threats to privatize the industry to get these lazy bastards back to work?

This reminds me of an incident that happened in Major League Baseball about a decade ago.  There was talk of an umpire strike, and a fraction of umpires had the idea of a “mass resignation” in which all the umpires would resign at once and the league would have no choice but to ceed their demands.  Somewhere along the way, majority of the umpires came to their senses, but about twenty umpires sent in their resignations, and the league accepted them.  The next day, the twenty umpires found out that the other 50-60 umpires didn’t send in their resignations as planned, and they clamoured to get their jobs back.  The league simply said, “Too bad, so sad, you resigned, goodbye.”

Why can’t David Miller take that attitude?

If these “skilled workers” are striking, why can’t he just tell them, “I’m sorry you feel so hard-done-by, so I’m going to employ the private sector to take over the jobs that you feel you were being underpaid to do.”

He won’t because his testicles were removed a long, long time ago…

So will the workers be paid for their three weeks of striking?  It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that they will be.

In a recent poll, 73% of Torontonians said that municipal workers should accept whatever the city is offering, and get back to work.  It begs the question: who the hell are the other 27%?

Perhaps they’re the people that don’t have children that could be spending their summers playing tennis or roller-hockey on the rink below:


Or perhaps they’re the people that have no qualms about the health and safety ramifications from our streets looking like this:


Or, perhaps they’re the people that don’t understand how important tourism is to Toronto’s economy, and have no worries about the bad press our city has been getting – like being ranked the NUMBER ONE place to avoid in the San Francisco Chronicle’s travel advisory:


Who knows what makes people tick?

27% of Torontonians think that the garbage workers should get what they want.

The garbage workers think they should be able to trade in their saved-up sick days for cash when they retire.

And I think these workers can be replaced with homeless people, since they already have the experience in dealing with garbage…

But I’m sure his esteemed greatness, Mr. David Miller, will eventually cave and give the smelly-people whatever they want.

It’s a trickle-down effect from there.  There is blood in the water, and people know how weak David Miller is when it comes to playing hard-ball.

I hope everybody likes the bleeding-heart society we’ve become.

What’s next – government housing in Rosedale?

(yes, click here)

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. Calico Cate

    at 8:42 am

    Does anyone remember when U.S. air traffic controllers were on strike. President Ronald Reagan fired the lot of them and hired new controllers.

    What a concept!

  2. Jonathan Desmond

    at 8:54 am

    Bravo David – you’ve said what everybody else is thinking but would never stand up and say. Thanks as always for your honesty and for sticking your neck out!

  3. peaches & cream

    at 9:41 am

    I agree with every point you made — the city made a generous offer last week & the union should’ve let the members vote on it. And why use the parks for dump-sites, why not use city offices & parking lots???

  4. JunkB

    at 10:20 am

    You are right. Government workers earn good wages on top of terrific extras/benefits and job security. Most people I know would love to have a government job.

    Some of the striking municipal workers earn more (or about the same for less work) than some college/university grads, even when adjusted for age. My guidance counselor in high school was wrong. Who knew this kind of work could be so lucrative, relatively speaking?

  5. RobG

    at 10:22 am

    Without the union, there are risks that key knowledge would be lost, right? OK… 24,000 striking workers. How about we hold a job fair for let’s say, um, 18,000 jobs. I’m sure that you’ll get all the knowledge transfer you need since most of the 24,000 works would be applying to get their own positions back.

    This would greatly reduce the fat, and if 18,000 workers can’t do the work that used to take 24,000 workers, then the worst case scenario is you hire more. If you hire 6,000 more, you’re right back up to the original 24,000 works. But this time ’round the workers don’t cost as much!

    In a time where unemployment is tipping 10% (higher, depending on whose stats you go by), there are many able bodies eager to work hard to bring home some cash, pay bills and put food back on their tables at home.

    Unions had a time and place. And they still might in some areas…. but this is ridiculous! Miller… grow a pair, take a page from Reagan, and hold a big ol job fair!!!

  6. 2.much.political.correctness

    at 10:41 am

    It’s too bad that we can’t just “fire ’em all!” (like Reagon did with the air traffic controllers).
    The truth is this will never happen in Toronto. Miller wouldn’t let it happen, nor would McGuinty.
    Anyone sitting on the fence about who to support in this strike need only look at your stats, as well as those that show that Toronto pays 65% more for garbage collection than 30 other Canadian municipalities!!! And, maybe it’s just me, but are we really getting “better quality” service for that extra 65% cost? Take a look at the mess at the end of your driveway after the garbage trucks come by (picking and choosing what they will take, leaving wrappers and items strewn across your front lawn). The answer, my socialist-be-goners, is no.

  7. Geoff

    at 11:49 am

    David — completely agree. I think Miller should say ‘ok, we gave them a good offer last week, they don’t want it, so we’re going to go back to the first offer, and they can call us when they’re ready to accept it.’ When union members starting getting their homes foreclosed on in about 6 months, with the knowledge that there will be no bonus to pay back their loans, balls will start rolling. Or fire and privatize, but that will never happen but this scenario might.

    PS. An open letter to the person who dumped their garbage behind my house: First, you are scum. Second, you are stupid scum – don’t include your mail, idiot. Third, enjoy your $400 fine. Fourth, FU and die.

  8. Always a critic

    at 6:13 pm

    So sad the people at the SF Travel office don’t comprehend the impact of a garbage strike in Toronto (a city with an area of 630 sq. km) on the entire COUNTRY of Canada (with an area of 9,984,670 sq. km). I think Mayor Miller would be more eager to “negotiate” if this strike was having such a horrible effect on the second largest country in the world!!

  9. PI

    at 9:22 pm

    I hope the strike goes on and on. The longer it goes on, the lesser the chance that Miller will be elected next year.

  10. David Fleming

    at 10:12 pm

    @ Always a critic

    Thanks for pointing out the one argument that my article was lacking! I too found it comical (although not entirely unexpected given some of our southern cousins’ complete ignorance) that the SF Chronicle equated “Toronto” with “Canada.”

    I hear there are some wild fires in California that might be dangerous, so I’ll cross New York City off my list of places to visit, and I’ll be damn sure to steer clear of Missouri!

  11. David Fleming

    at 10:14 pm

    @ Pl

    Who is going to run against David Miller?

    You? Me?

    Let’s face facts: nobody likes him, but most people are afraid to elect a relative unknown.

  12. CoalitionToDefeatComradeMiller

    at 1:30 pm

    Seen the polls? When they put ANY random center, or center right person, who hasn’t even campaigned or announced they are running for Mayor, up against Comrade Miller, they win by about 10 points each.

    John Tory.
    Jane Pitfield.
    David Fleming.
    The crazy “BELIEVE IN HIM” guy at the NW corner of Yonge and Dundas.

    Doesn’t matter who runs. As long as we don’t split the vote 5 ways again, Miller and his horde of NDPers are done for. The unions have effectively destroyed “their guy”. This strike is but a minor inconvenience, but long term, great news for this city.

  13. Lauren

    at 1:19 pm

    “And I think these workers can be replaced with homeless people, since they already have the experience in dealing with garbage…”

    really? was that necessary???

    **Please note that I do agree with everything else**

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