Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cops, Garbage Privatization, Crooks & Limp Noodles

In typical Toronto council fashion, a compromise bill was passed that both the left and the right on council are claiming as a victory but which will, in fact, hand a victory to the right. The privatization of garbage collection, a trojan horse that has used public anger against a 39-day garbage strike back in 2009, is just a prelude to further attacks on services.

But, let's be clear, privatization is a crock of shit.

First of all, if privatization is going to save money - a big "if" - it is going to do it in one of three ways - by cutting wages and benefits for the workforce, by cutting corners on service provision, by making workers work harder. There is no magic technology that is held in the private sector that allows them to do a better job than the public sector. This has to be seen for what it is - a gift to Ford's rich buddies and an attack on workers conditions. All those working class people who voted for Ford and think that he's going to make their lives better have another think coming. Very publicly attacking the wages and conditions of sanitation workers will be a checkered flag to other employers to use the same logic on their own workforce. It will also weaken public sector unions in the city - and the public sector is a union stronghold with unions have a much lower density in the private sector.

Furthermore, it is absurd to think that a company that wants to make as much profit as possible can provide better service than a public department whose mandate is to just provide a quality service (well, truth as a profit measure has also crept into the public sector in recent decades, undermining this straight-forward mandate). That's why wherever the private sector has made big inroads into a sector of the economy previously dominated by public sector provision, the costs have gone up and the service has gone down. A study a number of years ago of the effects of privatization on the British National Health Service demonstrated this clearly. The experience of water privatization in Latin America and elsewhere has also proven this - in Bolivia it led to a near revolution as private companies jacked up prices and restricted access to the poor.

The health care sector in the USA is another example of this dynamic - the richest country in human history has a terrible health care system dominated by high prices, parasitic middlemen and poor service for the vast majority. And last I checked the mighty private sector - banks, auto manufacturers and others - brought the economic system to the brink of collapse back in 2008. Hardly a solid record of delivering efficiency, savings or services - instead, after years of attacking public spending, they happily bellied up at the public trough while protesting any "intrusions" of public oversight into how they were spending our money.

And even on their own terms of "saving money" the Ford Bro Circus of Stupid is a dishonest, craven outfit. They happily gave the cops a big raise and Doug Ford made a big stink when it was suggested that some police services be contracted out to save money. Garbage on the streets for us, a well-paid police boot in our ass if we complain about it. Charming.

But if the Ford family freakshow are unmitigated assholes then the left on city council - and the union leadership - are sad and pathetic creatures. One shouldn't be surprised, I suppose that the "left" are as useless as tits on a bull. These characters did unanimously vote for a Ford inspired motion before he was mayor that lauded the police for the highest priced, most bungled, most repressive police operation in Canadian history during the G20 summit. On the grounds of political principle it demonstrated that the left has absolutely none. On the ground of political opportunism to vote with their executioner proves that they are just fucking stupid.

Sadly, the union leadership hasn't done much either. Last month there was an excellent demonstration of some 10,000 people organized by the unions but, like the Days of Action movement fifteen years earlier, the leadership appears to have had no strategy to maintain momentum beyond a one-off demonstration. One can't help but be impressed by the inability of the union leadership to learn a lesson from the squandering of the biggest opportunity to stop the attacks on unions the last time around. So, now the left and the union leadership declares that this is a limited victory - to have voted for a motion to support privatization as long as they get to oversee it. That's like celebrating the fact that you get to choose the knife that is used to cut your throat. Surely there must be some people with brains and principles to lead an opposition to Ford and his ilk.

Ford’s plan to privatize garbage collection passes - with concessions - The Globe and Mail
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