Toronto plans for massive layoffs

Union workers will bear the brunt of layoffs if city council approves the proposed 2012 operating budget, which includes issuing pink slips to 1,200 municipal employees.

On Wednesday, the city released a breakdown of the layoffs, some of which have already occurred. They include 714 positions in various city departments, 666 of which are unionized. Another 152 public library jobs will be cut, and 324 TTC workers, which are a mix of union and non-union positions. The city is also deleting 1,148 positions that are either vacant, or will be vacated due to a buyout package, the majority of which are also unionized. If approved, the civil service will shrink by a total of 2,336 positions. Deferring the hiring of 68 firefighters, 36 paramedics and 353 positions in the police service are among the cuts.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday acknowledged the number is sizable, and he takes no pleasure in laying off workers.

“But I guess if they just took a look at the history of how this workforce has grown, when it was supposed to decrease, but none of the other administrations cared to get involved to reduce the numbers,” Mr. Holyday said.

Mayor Rob Ford has said repeatedly that he is on a mission to shrink the size and cost of government.

Mr. Holyday said most city workers are unionized, which could explain why they are hit harder by layoffs.

The cuts to TTC jobs are a mixture of restructuring, and the controversial decision to run fewer, more crowded buses and streetcars. The TTC is also considering contracting out another 500 jobs in maintenance-type positions and cleaning, which would reduce the workforce further.

“It’s a significant reduction,” TTC chair Karen Stintz said. “We were advised we needed to reduce our headcount and change our organization and adjust to the new fiscal realities of the city.”

If approved by city council, a workforce of about 53,000 positions will shrink by about 5%.

Councillor Joe Mihevc says it will be a shock to the system.

“I honestly feel that this is too much, too fast,” said the St. Paul’s councillor. “We did this during the Mel [Lastman] years and you know what happened? We hired a lot these folks back as consultants.”

Mr. Holyday cannot say whether more layoffs are in the cards at the city, but he points out that this proposed budget relies on $83-million worth of surplus.

“That signifies that we haven’t reached our goal yet because we want to be able to balance our budget without reserves,” he said.

Source: National Post