rail strike averted union station

Morning Brew: Union Station rail workers' strike averted, mayoral candidates reject pay raise, two ski hills in jeopardy, green-bin processing machine needs repairs, botched jewelry heist, elaborate missing puppy case

Railway maintenance and construction workers based at the Toronto Terminal Railway (at Union Station) have reached a last minute deal to prevent a strike. Without a contract since the end of 2009, the tentative deal includes wage hikes and improved benefits.

A report by The Hay Group, which cost City Hall $50,000 to commission, has declared that the job of mayor of Toronto is under-compensated compared to other municipalities such as Mississauga and Montreal. The group recommends that our city's next mayor should get a $16,000 raise to bring the annual salary up from about $167,800 to around $183,600. How do the leading mayoral candidates feel about this? All are rejecting the suggestions, instead maintaining that they would actually reduce the top job's wage, freeze it, or donate any increases to charity.

Two ski and snowboard hills previously operated by the City are in danger of being shut down this coming winter. As a cost-cutting measure, the idea was to have private companies step in and operate the facilities, but since the call was put out for bids and proposals, none have come forward. The hills in question -- at Centennial Park Etobicoke and Earl Bales in North York -- may still be saved via public funds, but how and when this might happen is a big question mark with a tight timeline.

We have a bit of a problem with our city's workhorse green-bin processing machine. It's operating at capacity and needs a new rubber seal to prevent nasty bio-gases from escaping (repairs that will require a few months of down-time). Rather than shutting it down for repairs, it might make sense to build a new, second digester and work on the old one while the new one churns out our organic waste. This would then allow for increased capacity once the old one is back in operation. But should we sole-source the $11-million contract to the company that built and runs it now?

Some people are wiling to go to great lengths to get ahead. Like bursting into a jewelry store for a smash-and-grab style robbery, and shooting the store's employee twice in the process. Police are in the hunt for two suspects following the botched hold-up of Arax Jewellers near Bayview and Eglinton. The employee was shot in the arm and leg, and is recovering.

The headline is about a missing puppy, but the story leading up to the puppy's disappearance is the newsworthy part. A woman alleges that she was lured into a van by two seemingly nice Pakistani men who wanted to hang out, only to learn that they wanted to pay her for sex. When she rejected their lewd offer, she was pushed out of the vehicle at an isolated ravine location, and the van drove away with the dog still in it. It's a scary series of events, and it's clear that some of the readers of the Sun article don't believe her story.

And be sure to check out blogTO's latest call for Best of Toronto nominations. Best ramen, microbrewery, sports bar, swimming pools, ethnic grocery store, and more are open for nomination, with voting coming soon.

Photo: "Waiting for the train" by kmaraj, member of the blogTO Flickr pool.

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