Maybe he can avoid the media this way: Robertson collects garbage
Gregor Robertson has been avoiding media questions regarding the dismissal of 38-year veteran employee Carlene Robbins, but that's not to suggest he's been idle. As The Province reports today, Robertson has been out working behind garbage trucks. "They’re tough jobs," says Hizzoner.
What will be "tough" is the political debate over garbage likely to unfold during the 2011 election campaign. There is a very good chance that some NPA candidates will campaign on a pro-contracting out plank for services like waste. The collective agreements for City workers all run out in 2012, which means that whoever wins the next election will be in the always challenging position of settling with CUPE locals.
When it came to the 2007 labour disruption, and every one that has happened before it, the way unions strap the employers over a barrel is through disruption of garbage collection and landfill service. It is something no city should have to go through, nor is it something that should ever happen again. This is why the NPA must make garbage & waste a key platform plank.
Simply put, voters must decide whether they are prepared to go without garbage service for lengthy periods in the future or not.
This is not to say that those who are currently collecting Vancouver's waste must be pushed out for a private alternative. Several cities have put their waste services out to tender, and after considerable pencil sharpening by unions, in-house services have been chosen by cities like Phoenix, AZ. But the bottom line of any agreement with unions must be to keep garbage & recycling collection an essential service, and the city's Delta landfill must not be put behind pickets.
When it comes to the waste we create, one Canadian city seems to get, or rather, give the message. The topic of waste has never been more engaging than in what the City of Toronto is doing with their Chuck & Vince – "We Want It!" video campaign.
Chuck and Vince want your electronic recycling materials – see video
The Chuck and Vince videos were a creation of the city's marketing department before Rob Ford became mayor, but it is the new administration that is pushing for sweeping changes in the way Hogtown's waste is collected. After campaigning on a promise to contract out garbage services, the City of Toronto is now making noises that they are moving forward with Ford's agenda.
While the City of Vancouver may have ended up saddled with a 17.5% increase in pay over 5 years for their employees (causing the so-called "Brodie Dividend," after Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie broke ranks and settled first with CUPE), they did get one very important concession from their workers – the ability to contract out.
To date no one at the City of Vancouver has whispered the phrase "contracting out," even during the budgeting process where a multi-million dollar shortfall was revealed. You can expect that to change during the upcoming election season, in particular when it comes to waste.
No government in the future wants to have another destructive disruption of garbage collection service, and just like in Toronto it will be a winning issue for the NPA should they decide to take it up.
- post by Mike