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Toronto’s first step toward back-to-work

Toronto’s first step toward back-to-work

Toronto sets January date for city workers to return to the office, amid rising COVID-19 cases, Omicron uncertainty and wage freezes

By Sam Strachan

19th May 2020

Toronto could see an acceleration in the infection rate after a record-setting month in April. Meanwhile, with the city at a loss for money, city hall workers continue to struggle to obtain essential supplies, which means more people getting sick.

All of which has some wondering whether Toronto will finally take the first step toward back-to-work, or whether the city will revert to the slow, back-to-work-now model of other North American cities.

When the city says it wants to bring back business as usual, that doesn’t just mean closing restaurants and laying people off. It means paying people for the hours they do work at city hall while fighting with city hall over costs of essential goods and services.

On Monday, city council finally began the process of hiring an outside firm to help track the city’s COVID-19 cases, which have been surging in April and May. A spokesman for city council said the data will be helpful in establishing a daily rate of pay for city public servants.

After six weeks of being on a wage freeze, which city hall workers and union leaders say is part of a calculated plan to save money, new wage data from the agency providing the salary tracking data for the city (the City of Toronto Pension Plan) reveals that there is a $1.38 million shortfall.

City council could find itself in a bind. By law, the data would have to be posted on the city’s payroll system by May 31. It means the city needs to find $1.1 million in other sources of operating funding.

Councillors, who have the power to set the council’s salary, have so far refused to approve the wage freeze and have instead opted for a deferral of pay increases until April.

“We are asking for a deferral until April, to save the city money,” said Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 20 Scarborough Centre). “Let’s get this done. But we need to do

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