TORONTO – The City of Toronto could fix the problems in its finance department by hiring more front-line workers, says the head of the city’s largest union.
The city is losing money because of uncollected taxes, diminishing user fees, and over-budget spending in its agencies, according to the city’s year-end financial statement,.
“The city should be building up its finance department instead of tearing it apart,” says Ann Dembinski, the president of Local 79 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). “Employees are moved around all the time. Resources are inadequate. Staffing levels are abysmally low. The problems are not due to a skills shortage, but to how staff are directed and under-utilized.”
CUPE Local 79 has lodged many official complaints about the running of the department. “Work has been taken away from skilled people and handed over to management personnel or outside consultants. We have too few workers trying to accomplish monumental tasks. Many skilled workers fled following amalgamation because further cutbacks were being predicted. Many positions in the department are vacant and yet the city is intending to cut the number of positions in accounts payable by the end of this year.
“The key to getting the city’s finances back on track is for the city to focus on improving the department,” says Dembinski. “The first step should be sitting down with the union to address the concerns of front-line workers.
“We are very worried that the department has been steadily degraded to encourage the privatization of city finances. It is inappropriate for outside contractors to deal with taxpayers’ personal information. Privatization will also cost the city more in the long run.”
CUPE Local 79 represents 15,000 employees of the City of Toronto, including workers in the city’s finance department.
Ann Dembinski, CUPE Local 79: 416-977-1629
Shannon McManus, CUPE Communications: 416-292-3999 ext. 222