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TTC faces $200,000 legal bill

Outside lawyers used to fight pay increase

By Paul Moloney Toronto Star City Hall Bureau

The Toronto Transit Commission will spend about $200,000 on outside lawyers to fight workers’ demands for a 3 per cent yearly pay hike over three years.

The 7,800 drivers, maintenance staff and fare collectors won a 2 per cent annual raise after a two-day strike in April.

Management agreed to let an arbitrator decide whether to bump that to 3 per cent. Hearings before retired Judge George Adams are expected to begin in mid-January.

The TTC will pay the law firm of Hicks Morley about $160,000 this year to prepare for the case, and about $40,000 for the hearings, said Lynn Hilborn, deputy general manager.

The TTC’s legal bills from Hicks Morley for labour relations disputes will total $1.8 million for the four years from 1997 to the end of 2000, mostly to fight grievances filed by workers, a staff report said.

“Lawyers are expensive,” said TTC chair Howard Moscoe, who added that commissioners this week ordered a review by the TTC’s in-house legal department.

“The motion we dealt with was to ask our head of legal services to review our use of external solicitors and come back with a recommendation.”

Critics of Moscoe’s intervention in the labour dispute last spring say the contract could have been settled without exposing management to the risk of arbitration.

If the union’s demand for 3 per cent is upheld, the TTC estimates it will cost an extra $34.2 million over three years.

Moscoe was soundly criticized - and failed attempts were made to oust him - after he was quoted as saying during bargaining that the TTC should settle and worry about how to pay for it afterward.

“I wouldn’t have put us in that situation, but basically making mistakes is a costly business,” said Councillor Chris Korwin-Kuczynski, a TTC commissioner.