A year after TTC Chair Karen Stintz put on a dark wig and nose ring to go undercover as a TTC cleaner for reality TV, the Toronto councillor is defending a move to contract out those jobs, arguing the transit commission has "no choice" but to implement money-saving measures.
Management at the cash-strapped transit system has identified several jobs where economies can be found through contracting out, states a letter from Ms. Stintz sent to fellow city councillors Thursday. Those jobs include garbage collection and washroom cleaning, as well as daily cleaning of buses – one of four tasks done by Ms. Stintz last summer for an episode of Undercover Boss. Following that experience, Ms. Stintz remarked on the pride and dedication of the long-time employees she worked beside.
In the letter to councillors, Ms. Stintz emphasizes that under the terms of the collective agreement, no employee will be laid off as a result of contracting out. "The TTC has no choice but to continue to reduce its cost-structure throughout the organization while maintaining the highest commitment to the safety of our employees and customers," the letter goes on to say.
"Our objective is to improve quality and contain our costs," Ms. Stintz said in an interview Thursday.
Contracts for garbage collection and washroom cleaning have already been awarded, Ms. Stintz said, and the larger contract for bus cleaning at two of seven garages will be considered by the TTC commission at its next meeting on Sept. 27. She would not provide a dollar figure for the contracts, but said they would result in "millions in savings."
In all cases, she said the union was given the chance to make a case for keeping the jobs in-house.
"If the union were able to come back with a proposal that matched what the private sector was doing, we wouldn't necessarily contract this out. They were unable to match," she said.
Union leader Bob Kinnear, who represents transit workers and began his career at the TTC as a janitor, sees it differently.
He calls contracting out cleaning jobs a "false economy," and plans to make that case later this month when the TTC commission meets. "The decisions that are being made are going to have long-standing issues for transit and for the city," he said.
He also pointed out that the total savings realized under the contracts will be less than the money spent earlier this summer when the commission gave non-union employees and executives a wage hike to match the raise given to unionized workers through arbitration.
The move to contract out the cleaning work likely will face resistance from some members of council who have opposed the elimination of other city cleaning jobs. Ms. Stintz said she felt the need to send her letter to councillors in response to a message from Mr. Kinnear to his members last week. "We wanted to make sure council had information and knew that this was happening," she said.