Labor woes cast cloud over Toronto events

TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Ernie Eves called an emergency session of the Ontario legislative body July 11 to introduce back-to-work legislation for the City of Toronto's 25,000 employees.

A strike since June 26 by garbage collectors and other municipal union workers has put the city's squeeky-clean image in question, and may be further compounded by a possible hotel union workers' strike, a Toronto Convention & Visitors Association spokeswoman acknowleged.

During the civic unions' strike over job security in the event of privatization, trash is piling up in city parks, Toronto Island Ferry service is canceled, and city-run museums, art galleries and cultural facilities are closed.

The timing of the Toronto garbage collectors and potential hotel workers' strike is worrysome for Dallas-based trade association Meeting Professionals International (MPI), which to date has 2,600 attendees registered for its annual World Education Congress in Toronto July 21 to 23.

Though an MPI spokeswoman said the event has not seen a drop-off in attendance this year, registration so far is only three-fourths of the record 3,461 attendees at the World Education Congress in Las Vegas last year.

Two official host hotels for the MPI conference, the Fairmont Royal York and Sheraton Centre, are trying to reach a settlement with a local Hotel Employees Restaurant Employees labor union to avoid a potential strike of their own.

The association said in a prepared statement it is "closely monitoring the garbage collection strikes and other pending strikes in Toronto."

MPI has commitments from the hotels that in the event of a hotel strike, the properties would bring in other employees, "and there would be no disruptions for our conference attendees at all," the spokeswoman said.

The meeting planners' conference will be followed by what is expected to be the largest event ever in Canada -- Pope John Paul II's World Youth Day, July 23 to 28, which the CVA spokeswoman said could draw 350,000 visitors.

For the latest on Toronto's labor disruptions, call the TCVA at (800) 499-2514 or visit the city's Web site at www.city.toronto.on.ca.

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