Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Star Continues Its Stellar Work

One of the Atkinson Principles guiding The Toronto Star is to champion the rights of working people; to my ongoing delight and gratification, however, this tenet does not mean the paper gives a free ride to labour and unions.

Today's edition is ample testament to that fact. Another of its excellent investigations has uncovered what many would say are corrupt and extortionate practices on the part of the Maintenance & Construction Skilled Trades Council headed by Jimmy Hazel.

As outlined in the story, the Council, which has an exclusive contract with the Toronto District School Board, has been charging exorbitant amounts to the cash-strapped board, one example being the installation of a pencil sharpener at a cost of $143, another the placing of an electrical outlet in a school library for $3000.

Perhaps one of the article's most disturbing revelations is the fear of retaliation rampant amongst both tradespeople and principals if they make a fuss about these pratices. Added to the fact that Council President Hazel initially met the Star's inquiries with a stream of profanities, followed up later with patently contrived excuses of 'clerical errors' in the billing suggests yet another example of wrongdoing crying out for remediation.

As I have said before in this blog, while I strongly believe in supporting unions, that support can never be uncritical, unquestioning, and unconditional.


  1. It is not an "exclusive contract". The board is free to hire outside labour, if they bid lower.

    For example, the $250,000 kitchen was handled by an outside company because they bid lower.

    The Star, and the principle, who made the complaint did not reveal that the charge for the pencil sharpener was reversed, when it was revealed that the TDSB sent a carpenter to do the job that should have been done by the maintenance staff. The principle told to get in-house staff to do minor maintenance in future. The $3000 dollar charge was reduced to $1000.

    Anti-union hatchet job that just happened to appear on the front page of the Star on the same day as McGuinty's austerity budget was passed.

    1. Here are two pertinent excerpts from the original article:

      The work in question was carried out by some of the 900-strong maintenance and construction trades people who have an exclusive contract with the Toronto District School Board.

      Under a longstanding agreement with Jimmy Hazel’s Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council, almost all of that work must be performed by its members, who are TDSB employees. Projects larger than $1.5 million, or those requiring special skills, can only be done by companies whose workers are part of affiliated unions.

      I also disagree with your characterization of the story as an 'anti-union hatchet job.' I would call it good investigative journalism.

  2. Even still Anon, the $3,000 charge for installing the electrical outlet in the school library and was later reduced to $1,000 due to a 'clerical error' - (yeah right), the $1,000 charge still rather high for 2 hrs work given the (2) electricians are paid the rate of $38 per hr and they charged for 76 hr.

  3. The star's investigation did not discover the letter
    sent from on high in TDSB managment to each tradsperson
    praising the unpresentated amount of quality work done
    by in house trades people..The star found a few oddities
    in hundreds of millions of work and beat it to death !!
    The Union and TDSB managment are arrogant and refuse to adhere to their responsibility in a competent and respectfull manner. ASK the person who has been toting the protest
    outside of TDSB from early spring!! JOHN WALSH

  4. Thank you for your comment, John. Could you provide more information about the protest?