You can tell City Hall is headed for serious labour trouble when Mayor Mel starts dissing staff.
The mayor's been screaming about the city's employee unions standing in the way of his attempt to realize "efficiencies" and implement "alternative service delivery" -- code for the privatization of public services. Everything from daycare and water management to garbage pickup is up for grabs by private interests.
With collective bargaining agreements for most city workers expiring at the end of the year, Mel and the unions are already on a collision course that could end up in a messy public service strike.
The mayor's pushing for a wage freeze and an end to job security. City employees currently get tenure after 10 years service.
"Any attempt to erode our employment security provisions should certainly be a strike issue," says local 79 president Ann Dembinski.
Add to this the fact that since amalgamation in January 1998 the city has conveniently failed to harmonize wages among city employees and the situation only gets worse.
It's not surprising, then, that city employees are feeling unappreciated. Brian Cochrane, president of CUPE local 416, which represents the city's outside workers, refers to this environment as "a hellhole to work in."
Cochrane maintains that despite all the right-wing bitching on council about cutting costs and finding more efficiencies, his union has never been consulted on the issue. And he openly criticizes Mel's overt attack on job security provisions last week, when the mayor declared that "I don't believe in jobs for life."
"Why not?" asks Cochrane. "There's no reason why that shouldn't and couldn't happen."
Councillor Olivia Chow says it's unlikely Mel will be able to win a wage freeze if the police union gets a pay hike. Last time, the cops set the benchmark for locals 416's and 79's modest 7.3-per-cent retroactive pay hike spread over three years.
Of course, while city staff are expected to do more with less, nothing puts the lie to Mel's claim that he's hellbent on making City Hall more efficient than the millions of dollars that have been going out the window to a small army of consultants. "We spend more time scrutinizing a $10,000 grant than a $10-million consultant's contract," says Chow. "It's just unbelievable."