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City Hall to reduce hours, custodial cleaning in budget cut that blindsided Toronto councillors

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A plan to scale back the operating hours and custodial cleaning of Toronto City Hall and other civic centres has some councillors crying foul — insisting the cut was buried in the budget and unknowingly passed.

“Instead of hidden in some buried appendix somewhere in the strong-mayor budget, this should have actually been brought to our attention right up front,” Councillor Josh Matlow told CTV News Toronto Saturday.

In a memo obtained by CTV News, facilities management directors advise the president of CUPE Local 79, which represents municipal cleaning staff, that “Corporate Real Estate Management is making adjustments in accordance with the 2023 Mayor’s Budget” and the “changes will affect custodial staffing hours.”

The letter says that the shifts of certain custodial staff will be capped at 30 hours a week, effective April 19, 2023.

Scaling back cleaning services is risky, Board of Health chair Chris Moise said Saturday, on the heels of a pandemic.

“The staff right now who are doing the work are working diligently and working hard to keep us safe,” Moise said. “We need to do our part as staff to make sure that they are given the tools that they need, that includes the proper hours.”

Under the plan, which is estimated to save $512,200 according to budget documents, the weekday hours of City Hall, Metro Hall, and the Scarborough, East York, Etobicoke, and North York civic centres will be reduced, and the centres will be closed Sundays, effective March 15, 2023.

Metro Hall will also be closed Saturdays, even though City divisions like the Toronto Community Housing Corporation are in the process of relocating to that facility.

Table shows the new planned operating hours of civic centres, effective March 15, 2023.

“In the budget, we had no details. Now the details are coming out,” Councillor Paula Fletcher said Saturday. “So I think it’s very fair to have a very close look and make sure the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.”

“The changes will not affect core hours of public access, legislative meetings or special events,” a City of Toronto spokesperson said in an e-mail. “The modifications enable robust service delivery during the hours when members of the public most frequently attend City buildings.”

The union, though, accused the city of dropping sanitation and public health needs as a priority.

“[I am] disappointed that the city is looking to hurt the health and safety of employees and city residents by cutting back on front-line services, and limit working hours, wages and benefits to the lowest paid people on the front lines of this city,” CUPE Local 79 president Casey Barnett said in a statement.

“I just don’t believe that the City of Toronto, City Hall, is in a position to talk about building an affordable city if we don’t care for the very people who clean the floors and ensure that our buildings, our public buildings, are healthy and safe places for both workers and visitors alike,” Matlow said.

The city’s general government committee voted Friday to ask council to put the service reduction plan on hold pending a more thorough review of the health and safety and operational implications of the cut.

“Public access to public space is something that I think we have to have a really clear decision on,” Fletcher said. “And I don’t think anyone knew that was in the cards when we voted on the budget.”

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