Victoria waste-collection decision tomorrow

Municipal workers' union finds new angle to fight curb-side pickup

City of Victoria sanitation worker Mark Gudowski empties a residential garbage can from a yard in the Hillside-Quadra neighbourhood.

City of Victoria sanitation worker Mark Gudowski empties a residential garbage can from a yard in the Hillside-Quadra neighbourhood.

A last-minute revelation that the city’s survey numbers might not add up prompted city council to postpone a decision about garbage collection.

John Burrows, representing CUPE Local 50, disputed results of the resident survey at a council meeting Feb. 9.

A city count showed residents valued cost as the most important factor in deciding between service options. Burrows’ own count, however, revealed a different breakdown between cost, environment and bin pickup location.

“I think there was enough questions that a majority of council weren’t comfortable moving forward at this time,” said Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe. The matter was sent back for more discussion, scheduled for tomorrow’s (Feb. 16) governance and priorities committee meeting.

In a nutshell, the union objects to the possibility of curbside versus backyard waste bin pickup. Also, garbage will only be collected once every two weeks rather than once a week under the new system, set to launch in 2013.

The employees union has been fighting the city’s review of waste collection for two years.

In 2010, it filed a grievance in dispute of the city’s decision not to fill vacancies in the department after 10 people retired.

Ed Robertson, assistant director of public work, confirmed: “These permanent positions have not been replaced, given that a business process review was taking place.”

In November 2010, the city and CUPE reached a settlement which states: “as soon as there is an outcome of the Service Delivery review … including if the Status Quo Model is maintained, the Employer would immediately post and fill – as continuous full time positions – those positions necessary to implemented (sic) the desired outcome.”

Burrows interpreted the wording as an obligation to include the status quo as one of the options in the resident survey.

Council disagreed, and in January 2012 the city sought legal advice to resolve the matter.

Lawyer Heenan Blaikie concluded “the (Memorandum Of Settlement) did not commit the City to include the Status Quo Model although the MOS did contemplate that the Status Quo Model was a possible outcome for Council.”

On Feb. 2, Coun. Chris Coleman explained the decision. “Council said with one voice – the status quo isn’t an option.”

“We have got to make recycling at least as convenient as (garbage pickup), which is the exact opposite of what we’re doing now,” added Geoff Young.