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At its final meeting prior to civic elections, Toronto City Council opted on September 24 to look at in-house efficiencies rather than accept a motion to contract out the work of as many as 41 part-time cleaners working at four Toronto Police Service facilities.

Many Local 79 cleaners anxiously looked on as Council voted 27-8 to defeat the privatization motion, deciding instead to ask city staff to work jointly with the union in exploring efficiencies in the cleaning service.

The original proposal called for 24.5 full-time equivalent positions to be replaced by fewer contract cleaners who would be paid about $7 an hour less.

“City Council has done the right thing,” said Ann Dembinski, CUPE Local 79 President. “We have always said that we are willing to look at efficiencies.

Those efficiencies will not include reducing the salary and benefits of the employees.

Debate was wide ranging on the issue. Mayoralty candidate David Miller denounced the race to reduce workers wages, stating that City employees should be paid enough to allow them to live in the city they work for. Councillors also raised the potential of future security breaches with the expected higher turnover of low-wage contract workers. More than 1600 police had signed petitions supporting the present in-house workers.

Ann Dembinski says the threat of privatization has not disappeared. “Public sector jobs are still under attack by the forces of privatization, and Local 79 will do what it can to ensure that Councillors who support publicly-delivered services form the majority of the next City Council. Our members need to get out and vote.”

Despite the victory on Wednesday, city cleaning services are still part of an alternative service review expected to report back early in 2004.