July 27, 2009 / 12:50 PM / 8 years ago

Toronto gets tentative deal to end garbage strike

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s biggest city reached tentative deals on Monday to settle a strike by municipal workers that halted garbage pickup, closed daycare centers and left public pools dry for more than a month.

<p>A mound of garbage bags sit in front of a row of garbage trucks parked at the Ingram transfer station in Toronto July 13, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>

Toronto Mayor David Miller said details of the agreements would not be disclosed until they were ratified by union members and city council. But he said the city will begin the process returning 30,000 employees to their regular jobs.

“(The agreements) are fair to the workers, affordable to Torontonians, and will allow the city the flexibility it needs,” Miller told a news conference.

“Without question, this has been a difficult period,” he added.

A key issue in the contract dispute was a policy that allowed workers to bank unused sick days and cash them in when they retire, a benefit the city said was too costly.

The city of more that 2.5 million is home to the country’s largest banks and main stock exchange. But the global financial crisis and resulting recession have squeezed tax revenues.

During the strike, 500,000 households were without garbage service, public litter bins were sealed and a fine for illegal dumping was enforced. The city to set up temporary dumps in parks, a move that angered nearby residents.

While garbage piled up around many street-side bins, unseasonably cool weather and the use of the drop-off points dulled some of the strike’s impact.

Miller, who went on CNN to defend the city’s reputation, took a tough line and polls put public opinion firmly behind the city.

“The deal that we reached we believe to be a fair deal,” Mark Ferguson, president of the union representing outdoor workers, told a news conference.

“There were compromises made in a number of different areas but it is a deal that we are proud of.”

Ryan Domsy, a financial analyst at DBRS rating service, said that while he had yet to see details of the tentative agreement he did not expect it to affect Toronto’s sound ‘AA’ credit profile.

However, he said that an agreement that is out of line with market conditions could erode some of the fiscal flexibility earned in recent years and further drive up property tax rates.

The tentative agreements in Toronto come just days after unionized workers in Windsor ratified a deal to end a 101-day strike that also halted garbage pickup in the southwestern Ontario city, across from Detroit.

($1=$1.08 Canadian)

Editing by Rob Wilson

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