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Why are we paying bus drivers to not drive buses? Here’s the TTC’s explanation to commissioners

- April 16th, 2015

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As the Toronto Sun revealed today, the TTC is trying to deal with an “operator surplus” that has cost $1 million so far this year (story here).

Shortly after the Sun started asking about this issue, the top brass at the TTC sent an “issue note” to transit commissioners explaining the problem to them.

We managed to get a copy of that memo as well.

Here’s the full briefing note sent to commissioners:

 

April 15, 2015

Bus Operator Surplus

 

Issue

 

The TTC has a temporarily large surplus of bus operators. Each day, approximately 70 – 80 are being sent home before the end of their shift with pay, having received no work assignment within the five hours stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the TTC and ATU Local 113. The cost of this is approximately $90,000 – $95,000 per week, but is anticipated to balance out by year end.

 

Background

 

The TTC employs approximately 4,300 bus operators. Our operating workforce includes a provision for a “Spareboard” where a prescribed percentage of Operators are designated to fill in for operators who are ill or away and were scheduled to operate on a specific route. This cuts down on overtime expenses. When all known open crews have been filled for the next day, any surplus “Spareboard” operators are designated as “Reportpersons” and given a reporting and finishing time for the next day based on anticipated potential absences throughout the day. If, on the next day, the “Reportperson” does not receive an assignment to fill an open crew within five hours, then, under the CBA, they are released and receive their eight hour daily guarantee.

 

Annual ridership is expected to increase to 545 million by the end of 2015.  Toronto City Council recently approved a $90 million increase to TTC’s Operating Budget for service improvements to accommodate growing ridership and return service levels to those in place before massive cuts in 2011.  This included recruiting, hiring and training 428 new operators.

 

To hire 428 new operators for 2015, 500 will be recruited; this is necessary to account for the failure rate of new hires in training. There is a 6-9 month lead time to recruit, hire and train operators. Each new operator must undergo five weeks of training. A maximum of 47 five-week training sessions can be held each year. This year, training buses and instructors will be redeployed during the Pan Am games, resulting in a decrease in the number of sessions that can be held.

 

The retirement rate among operators was lower than anticipated, based on the retirement rate following the last round of pension updates in 2011. We expected about 100 operators to retire in the first three months of 2015, but only 41 did so.

 

The TTC has a program wherein employees returning to work from sick leave are placed in alternative work situations  (referred to internally as Transitional Work Program or TWP) until they are ready to return to their regular duties.  The levels of TWPs have dropped this year. Whereas we expected, based on historical data, 23 operators to come off TWP in 2015, 45 operators have already done so in the first three months of the year.

 

Questions & Answers

 

1.      What are the root causes of the operator surplus?

a.      Upcoming service improvements required the hiring of 428 new operators; lead time of 6-9 months to recruit, hire and train.

b.      Retirement numbers were lower than estimated; 100 fewer employees retired than after the 2011 pension update, though the same number requested estimates.

c.       More employees returned to work from long term sick leave than anticipated.

d.      It is necessary to compress new operator training into 10 fewer weeks than normal, as training buses and instructors will be redeployed during the Pan Am games.

2.      Is it true that ops have been routinely sent home after 5 hours as per the CBA? If so, who authorised that? If a person is sent home after only 5 hours, do they receive all 8 hours of pay?

·       Yes, approximately 70 – 80 (out of 4,300) operators have been sent home each day, distributed over seven divisions. Sending home operators with full pay after five hours with no work assignment is mandated by the CBA.

 

3.      Why was no consideration given to fully utilising these additional ops throughout their full shift, e.g. on rear door loading or on covering crews that require relicensing?

·       The CBA does not allow for the reassignment of employees, though in recent emergencies the Union has agreed to allow this.

 

4.      What is the $ amount accrued to date on time for those sent home early?

·       Approximately $1 million out of a $330 million annual budget for operator wages

 

5.      What have we saved through fewer people being TWP?

·       $60,000/week in overtime savings

 

6.      Have we now got agreement with the union to waive that 5 hour CBA provision?

·       No, though we tried to come to an agreement with the union about reassigning workers to other duties.

 

7.      Can we bring forward additional off-peak service given that we already have operators?

·       Yes. Where feasible, we will accelerate off-peak service improvements.

 

8.      Are we still recruiting?  If so, why?

·       No. The recruitment drive has been put on hold.

 

9.      Will the lost cost be recovered by the end of the year on reduced overtime due to having more operators?

·       Yes.

 

Do our city politicians deserve bonus pay?

- March 23rd, 2015

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Mayor John Tory came out Monday singing the praises of performance pay for bureaucrats.

Tory – who admitted he sometimes made and sometimes lost bonuses when he worked in the private sector  - argued setting strict criteria that people have to meet on the job in order to cash in on bonuses is an effective way to get results.

So I asked if Tory believes in extending the performance pay philosophy to councillors as well.

He wouldn’t rule out the idea.

“Well, you know what, if there was a way to do that,” Tory said. “But one might argue that the ultimate performance pay is called an election where you have your job is at risk every four years.

“People in public life, and they accept that when they go into it, they’re given the ultimate performance review every four years and it can result in immediate unemployment. But if you said to me that there could be some specific measurements about things and that people would be entitled to a bonus for that, I’d  take a look at it.”

Read the full complaint against John Tory from Rob Ford’s staffer

- March 12th, 2015

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Rob Ford and his then-chief of staff Dan Jacobs last year at city council (Sun files) 

John Tory’s facing an integrity commissioner complaint from one of Rob Ford’s staffers after Wednesday’s council meeting.

Tory faced off with Ford during the budget debate and defended why he needed a $2.2 million mayor’s office budget (story here). The tough talk from Tory led to Dan Jacobs – Ford’s current executive assistant and former mayor’s office chief of staff – firing off a complaint to the integrity commissioner.

Here’s the full e-mail complaint obtained by the Sun:

Good afternoon Valerie,

I would like to file an informal (at this point) complaint against Mayor Tory, for comments he made today on the Council Floor.

In a period of questioning with Councillor Ford, Mayor Tory gave, as a reason for needing an increased office budget, his having a professional staff that act in a professional manner.

This calls into question the manner in which I conducted myself while employed in the Office of the Mayor, as it does for any past employees of that Office.

Not only is this incredibly disrespectful, but I believe it could open both the Mayor and the City to potential liability, as it puts a negative slant on my work as an employee of the City, which he has no right to say. This could affect my future employment.

As a result, I am asking for Mayor Tory to apologize for his comments about Mayor Ford’s staff.

I have CC’ed the staff members who I worked with on this message, including those who no longer work for the City, that I have personal contact information for, as I can personally attest to their professional manner while working in the office, and while dealing with the thousands of constituents, staff, and stakeholders that contacted the Mayor’s Office while we worked there.

I ask that you please keep personal e-mail addresses private.

Thanking you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter,

Dan Jacobs
Executive Assistant
Councillor Rob Ford
Ward 2, Etobicoke

 

Bidding for Rob Ford’s crack confession tie up to $13,000

- February 28th, 2015

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The NFL tie Rob Ford was wearing when he admitted that he had smoked crack cocaine is now up to $13,000 on eBay after less than three days.

If you’ve got $13,100 or more to burn, you can bid on the tie here.

Ford has said he will be donating at least 10% to cancer research while the rest will go to other charitable causes (story here). He’s also warned that there will be more “controversial” items coming “down the pipe.”

It is amazing that this piece of Fordian memorabilia is worth thousands to someone.

Depending on the weight of the tie and your local drug prices, this thing could already be worth more on a per gram basis than actual crack.

So who is bidding on this stuff? Rich Ford Nation fans? Memorabilia collectors that think it will keep its value? Jimmy Kimmel?

It is hard to believe the tie will still be valuable to someone 10 years from now as the memory of that time Toronto had a crack-smoking mayor fades unless of course he’s prime minister by then (Ford claimed back in 2010 that becoming Canada’s PM is his long-term dream).

And yet, Ford himself has stayed in the headlines and in the City Hall spotlight much longer than anyone thought he would after Mayor John Tory swept into office.

The story of his eBay sales has once again made news around the world and if there really are more controversial items going up for sale soon expect more global coverage.

Ford’s tie sale has even inspired others to try to cash in on the NFL ties in their closets. There are now at least two “Rob Ford” ties for sale on the online auction website (here and here).

It’s another strange act in the Ford circus but what’s more surprising is that, despite moving out of the mayor’s office, this circus isn’t leaving town.

City Hall now available in HD

- January 5th, 2015

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Toronto City Hall is now available in high definition.

The City of Toronto spent $175,440 to upgrade the camera system that films council and committee meetings last year.

City officials confirmed that five new HD cameras were installed in the council chamber at a cost of $79,440. The city spent another $96,000 to install 10 HD cameras in the two committee meeting rooms.

Council approved the upgrade to HD as part of the 2013 capital budget.

City spokesman Jaclyn Carlisle pointed out that the CRTC directed back in 2013 that analogue signals were no longer to be used to transmit audio visual signals.

“The City’s broadcast system was over 15 years old and required updating,” Carlisle stated.

“The City’s media partners had also requested the upgrade, as they routinely broadcast in HD.

“The City is now able to provide media with an HD broadcast signal, while continuing to convert the signal internally for those who use older television monitors.”

On Monday, Councillor Mike Layton commended the system after city staff watching the meeting on closed circuit TV brought him a report he referenced during the government management committee meeting.

“Let the record reflect that that closed circuit television (system) doesn’t constitute gravy,” Layton said.

John Tory takes the stage

- December 13th, 2014

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Mayor John Tory will be joining the ballet briefly on Saturday.

Tory will be on stage Saturday making a cameo in The National Ballet of Canada’s The Nutcracker. The new mayor will be continuing what’s become a bit of a tradition of mayor’s appearing as one of the cannon dolls in the annual performance. Rob Ford did it back in 2011 when he was mayor and David Miller did it in 2007.

The mayor’s office announced Friday that Tory’s wife, Barbara Hackett, will be joining him as the other cannon doll.

What’s a cannon doll? According to the National Ballet, “the Cannon Doll guest roles are colourfully costumed as Russian Petrouchka dolls in Act I who shoot a cannon into the audience to begin the battle scene.”

Asked on Friday if he was ready for his ballet debut, Tory laughed.

“How are you ever ready to go into show business like that?” Tory told the Sun. ”Remember I said I wasn’t in show business? Well, I’m making a four-minute exception.

“I’m a little nervous about it but anything for the ballet.”

What’s John Tory thinking when it comes to his executive?

- November 30th, 2014

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What’s John Tory’s general philosophy behind his executive committee appointments?

Late last week Tory wouldn’t reveal who he would be picking to take up key roles on city council but he did speak generally about what is guiding his decisions.

“I’ve been trying to make a genuine effort to make sure it is more representative taken as a whole of the city and of the council than might have been the case in the past,” Tory told the Toronto Sun last week. “I know from my past experience at even helping premiers and prime ministers and mayors with these appointments, it is very difficult because you want to put the right person in the right place in terms of producing good government, but at the same time you have all these other things you’re trying to achieve about the representative nature of the bodies you’re putting place.

“We’ve done our best to achieve something that I hope people will see as being a little more kind of reaching out to say, ‘OK, we understand this body is meant to serve the interests of the whole city.’”

Tory went on to say people should “take the leadership team as a whole when it is presented.

“I think when you send people to the police services board or the TTC, that’s an important signal too,” he said. “It isn’t just about the executive committee, those other places are very important – look at the size of the budget, look at what they oversee, it is very important.”

Are the Fords about to prank John Tory? 100% guaranteed

- November 3rd, 2014

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Rob Ford holds up gravy packets left in the mayor’s office by outgoing mayor David Miller’s administration when he moved into the office in December 2010.

Mayor-elect John Tory might have some surprises waiting for him in the mayor’s office when he takes over on Dec. 1.

Doug Ford – Mayor Rob Ford’s brother – said they are still working on some “fun” pranks for Tory’s team.

“I told John, David Miller left us a whole bunch of gravy packs so we were thinking a few other things just as a friendly joke,” Ford said on Monday.

“Just as fun. I don’t know, I haven’t talked to Rob. We might do something fun.

“I was thinking of leaving LRTs all over the place.”

Back in 2010, Mayor Ford wasn’t impressed by the gravy packets left behind after he waged his winning election campaign on stopping the “gravy train” at City Hall.

“I should mail them back to him,” Rob Ford told the Sun at the time. “He may be in (gravy) withdrawal and need some.” 

Packages of gravy weren’t the only thing left behind for Ford’s then incoming administration.

Along with what was described as a “cordial note,” Miller also left behind a copy of the MFP Inquiry final report.

At the time, Mayor Miller’s spokesman said the mayor found it as a useful how-to guide for running a clean and transparent government.

Doug Ford on the first debate of his mayoral campaign

- October 20th, 2014

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Doug Ford says he just guessed John Tory wouldn’t be able to answer basic questions about City Hall before throwing them at him during their first debate together last month.

The mayoral candidate revealed to the Toronto Sun that one of the key moments in his first face-off with Tory and Olivia Chow was totally unplanned.

Ford said he just went with his gut feeling that Tory – who has never been a member of council – isn’t familiar with City Hall and wouldn’t be able to answer simple questions about council committees.

“He doesn’t know anything down there, he doesn’t have a clue,” Ford told the Toronto Sun during an editorial board meeting earlier this month.

“Imagine this, applying for a job in a $12 billion a year corporation (and saying) don’t worry I’ll learn when I get down there guys.

“I know the guy doesn’t know, he’s never showed up down at City Hall. Outside of buddy-buddy with me, he’s never shown up once. He doesn’t understand the committees, he doesn’t understand the system, he doesn’t understand the people. He doesn’t understand, he doesn’t know.”

During the raucous debate last month at York Memorial Collegiate Institute, Ford landed the stunning blow to Tory when he asked him what city council committee handles purchasing. When Tory couldn’t answer the question, Ford followed up by asking how many standing committees council has. The mayoral frontrunner then guessed the wrong answer and Ford went on to joke he could phone a friend.

“You can call the mayor and ask him how many,” Ford said at the time.

Tory shrugged off the dust-up in the immediate aftermath of the debate and argued the information would be easy to find out when he’s at City Hall.

Ford went on to claim victory in that debate based on that moment and held a press conference inviting Tory to come to City Hall to learn about the job. He dubbed the day, “Take John Tory to Work Day.”

Asked about the attack weeks later, Ford said it wasn’t prepared ahead of the debate.

“Even my team was saying, ‘yeah, that was a good one,’” Ford said. “It was just common sense. John, do you know or don’t you know? He looked like a deer in the headlights.”

But Ford said he’s decided to pull back on questioning Tory about City Hall.

“I could ask him 40 more things but I decided on the debates, I’ll pull back because I’d make the guy look like a complete idiot and incompetent if I continued asking him questions,” he said.​

When was the last time the mayoral candidates gave to a panhandler?

- October 15th, 2014

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When was the last time the mayoral candidates gave to a panhandler?

That was one of the questions that came up during Wednesday’s Newstalk 1010 debate.

Olivia Chow says she gave money to a panhandler “probably a few months ago.”

John Tory said two days ago.

“I walk by the same person everyday and I can’t walk by every single day without doing something,” Tory said.

Doug Ford started with a joke at Tory’s expense.

“John throws hundreds, I throw pennies – that’s the difference,” Ford said.

Tory piped up.

“You want to go there Doug with the $20 bill or not?” Tory asked. “Do you want to go there?”

That was a subtle reference to the time Ford was handing out $20 bills to Toronto Community Housing residents around Christmas (story here).

As Tory fumed, Ford told a story about donating to a female panhandler outside Tim Hortons.

“I took a liking to her,” Ford said. “But usually I don’t (give to panhandlers).”

The candidates then got into a discussion about whether a homeless person should have the right to camp outside a business or on the streets of the city.

“Absolutely not,” Ford said.

Tory said “of course the answer is no” but pointed out the question should be, “where would you take them?”

“When Doug says move them along, where to?” he asked. “This is where we’ve let the city down and ourselves down by not making the investment with the province and perhaps even the federal government in having adequate facilities.”

Chow went on to stress she is the only candidate that has a plan to build 15,000 new units of affordable housing.

“You cannot talk about homelessness without actually finding the solution,” she said.