Open Letter: Restaurant industry urges immediate resolution to Toronto city workers' strike

    TORONTO, June 22 /CNW/ -

    To Mayor David Miller, CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan, and all Toronto
City Councillors:

    On behalf of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association and the
over 8,100 independent and chain restaurants, bars and caterers in the city of
Toronto - and indeed, on behalf of all residents of the city - I write to you
to strongly urge an immediate resolution to the city workers' strike.
    We are concerned not only about what this city workers' strike will mean
for our members, but for citizens of Toronto as a whole, and for the thousands
of visitors we welcome to the city each day. What kind of image will we
present to tourists visiting Toronto if they are faced with garbage piling up
on city streets, rampant rodent infestations, and the like? If you think this
is alarmist, take a ride down the 401 to Windsor, where the impacts - in the
form of garbage-strewn city parks, angry citizens and escalating violence
between threatening union members and local business owners - are obvious.
    As the ten-week-old garbage strike in Windsor illustrates, the suspension
of garbage collection has serious implications for restaurant operators and
the thousands of customers they serve each day. Foodservice operators are
obligated under the province's Health Protection and Promotion Act to ensure
their customers are served in a clean environment. Restaurateurs take this
responsibility seriously, and will continue do everything in their power to
ensure their waste is removed safely and efficiently, as they do each and
every day.
    But what happens if, as has happened in Windsor, the city and its workers
fail to come to a quick agreement? After more than two months of stalled
negotiations, news reports are showing that restaurateurs attempting to remove
garbage from their properties at their own cost are often prevented from doing
so by picketing workers. Windsor's medical officer of health has stated that
this is, in effect, forcing responsible business owners to break the law,
putting the public's health at risk. Are the city and its unionized workers
willing to compromise the health of Torontonians in a similar manner?
    On a dollars-and-cents level, most foodservice operators in the city
already pay for private garbage collection services, in addition to paying
property taxes that partially fund public waste collection. While it may seem
that these business owners will be unaffected by a garbage strike, the truth
is that no restaurant operates in isolation. Every restaurant, bar and
catering business is part of the community in which it operates, and whether
next door or across the street, garbage piling up will inevitably attract
pests, which will compromise food safety universally. The only option open to
operators is to pay for more garbage collection - whether it's proactively
helping out their neighbours or removing illegally dumped garbage from their
    What kind of message does it send to hard-working taxpayers when the
safety and cleanliness of the city is being held hostage over the matter of
sick day allotments? As a recent Toronto Star editorial noted, this stand-off
over benefits implies that "simply coming into work warrants a bonus. At a
time when so many workers in the private sector are losing their jobs or
agreeing to major concessions to keep them, that is hard to accept." It is
especially hard to accept when, from rising property taxes to five-cent fees
on plastic bags, Toronto residents are already being nickel-and-dimed all the
way to the poorhouse.
    Windsor's example should be taken seriously by the city of Toronto and
its unions. Windsor is home to 750 foodservice operations compared to
Toronto's 8,100. That's ten times the number of restaurants, ten times the
waste requiring collection, ten times the inconvenience for citizens and
tourists, and ten times the potential for conflict should the strike be
allowed to drag on.
    As is so often the case, Toronto restaurants are once again "the meat in
the sandwich" as negotiations take place between the city and city workers.
There is little that restaurateurs can do to impact negotiations, yet they
will be among the business groups most negatively affected. The outlook for
restaurateurs in Ontario is already grim: of all provinces, Ontario is
expected to see the largest decline in foodservice sales in 2009, and with the
second-lowest profit margin in the country at 2.5%, any additional costs or
losses in sales spell disaster for this struggling sector.
    Consequently, city restaurateurs are not in position to pay - through
property taxes or additional fees - for a settlement that will further push
the city into financial peril.
    No one understands better than a foodservice operator the challenge of
offering excellent service on a tight budget. We ask that the city and city
workers consider the grave economic and health impacts of this proposed strike
and immediately find a fair solution that reflects these troubled economic
    Torontonians are counting on you to get the job done.


    Garth Whyte
    President and CEO, Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association

For further information:

For further information: or to arrange an interview with Garth Whyte,
please contact: Jill Holroyd, CRFA Vice President Research and Communications,
(416) 649-4217,; Stephanie Jones, CRFA Vice President
Ontario, (416) 649-4243 or

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