Mayor David Miller blasted a group of conservative councillors as he announced that city workers would start returning to work at midnight.

"This morning, a group of allegedly responsible councillors said they would vote against this agreement, which would cause the strike to continue," he told a Thursday news conference.

This would mean no cleanup, no day camps, island ferry service or summer jobs, he said.

What he found really appalling was their attack on the integrity of city staff, Miller said.

"In all of my years, I've never seen such a disgraceful and unwarranted attack on staff ... To suggest our negotiators went outside the mandate is not only untrue, it's beneath contempt and it's beneath the very offices that these people hold."

The Group for Responsible Government,  a coalition of 11 conservative councillors, said early Thursday afternoon it would not be voting in favour of the deal.

"This agreement is not affordable and is not acceptable to the taxpayers of Toronto," said Coun. Case Ootes. "And it is for that reason that the Responsible Government Group has unanimously agreed it will not support this agreement and that negotiations should continue towards a reasonable settlement."

The group argued that city staff did not have a mandate to sign off on this deal.

Council consists of the mayor and 44 councillors. As a result, the Miller needs the support of at least 22 councillors to get the deal ratified.

Coun. Brian Ashton, a former Miller ally, said councillors will be trying to read their constituents before the vote. "One year outside of an election eyar, and they're going to be thinking really hard about who they support -- the mayor or their own constituents," he said.

One disgrunted taxpayer is Allan Burke, president of the East Beaches Community Association. "I guess you wonder, "We went through all this pain for what? My own opinion is probably for nothing, because probably the CUPE locals got what they wanted from Day One," he said.

Miller has said the responsible thing to do would be to support the deal, which met all of the city's bargaining goals, rather than plunge the city back into a strike.

Defending the deal

Miller gamely defended the new collective agreement reached after a 39-day strike as a win for the city despite criticism from the right that the unions got too much.

"This agreement is affordable, it diminishes our liability and it brings in a modern plan so people get a benefit when they're sick and not when they're well," he told CTV Toronto on Thursday.

Some critics say Miller gave away the store and that it could be the beginning of the end of his reign as mayor -- although the voters will decide on that in the fall of 2010.

"I think people are forgetting what happened during this strike," Miller said in response to that viewpoint.

"Until we went public with our offer (on July 10), the unions were saying, 'First of all, we will never negotiate sick days. We won't even talk about them. It's an issue of principle, it's been in our collective agreement 50 years -- never, never, never'," he said.

"They were saying they wanted parity in wages and benefits with people like the police. That meant an increase in wages and benefits of 12 per cent over three years."

Miller said Wednesday the unions will see their wages and benefits rise by 5.6 per cent over three years.

Wages will go up six per cent, but benefits will contract slightly, one exception being that city workers will now get the Family Day holiday in February off with pay.

New hires will not get the old sick-days plan, which gives workers 18 sick days per year. They can bank unused ones and collect up to six month's pay upon retirement.

That option is gone for new hires. People with more than 10 years service can keep that option or accept a buyout and move to a short-term disability plan. Those with fewer than 10 years of service will get 18 sick days per year but won't be able to continue banking them. There will be an optional buyout.

Those were seen as the two key issues of the strike.

The full details of the settlement will be made public after the parties have ratified the agreement.

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong, one of the mayor's conservative critics, said Miller sold out to the unions.

"He's let the city down, and I think there will be a political price to pay for that," he said, but he wouldn't specify what that price would be.

He claimed residents are furious with Miller.

City council will meet Friday at 9:30 a.m. to debate and vote on the settlement. It's unclear how much of the meeting will be open to the public.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Dana Levenson