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All out January 17 to defend Toronto jobs and services

Pam Johnson

January 3, 2012

After engineering a budget deficit and squandering the budget surplus he inherited, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has declared a crisis and is proposing the first mass layoff in Toronto’s history.

Over 1,200 workers will be laid off and 1,148 vacant positions will be eliminated in 2012. Other announcements are cuts to library hours and TTC routes and the proposal of fees for recreation programs.

When his high paid consultants at KPMG found no gravy, Ford, undeterred, announced that the “gravy” is city workers themselves and the services they provide. This exposes Ford’s real agenda: austerity for the workers coupled with privatizing services and selling assets to the private sector.

Ford’s main target is unionized city workers who faced attacks in 2009 from a “pro-labour” mayor, David Miller, and went on strike.

These workers in CUPE 416 and 79 are understandably wary of public perception if they are forced into a strike situation again. The bitterness of the 2009 strike proved to be a wake-up call to the labour movement that solidarity is necessary in the face of harsh attacks by employers and governments.

Ford’s cuts have raised the anger and frustration of Torontonians, even many who voted for him. Labour and community organized rallies on April 9 and September 26 brought thousands of people onto the streets. The library workers organized a very popular campaign against the library cuts. CUPE 416 members have campaigned door-to-door.

People packed City Hall through the night to depute against cuts, and rallies have been organized against social housing, child care, city farm cuts. City Councillors who previously supported Ford are abandoning him.

Despite these positive signs, Ford has not backed off and all indications are that he will push ahead.

City managers have been training to do workers’ jobs and their vacations have been cancelled in the New Year, pointing to a possible lock-out.

Toronto and York Region Labour Council and community groups have called a rally on January 17 when the final budget is due to be voted on.

This rally needs to be built in workplaces, schools and neighbourhoods. The level of anger and continuing protests by groups affected by the cuts speaks to the possibility of pushing back against Ford’s austerity agenda, but it will require a broad-based effort.

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