Toronto backtracks on return-to-office plans for city employees as Omicron spreads its wings with Omicron’s first acquisition
When City of Toronto staff were handed a $500,000 increase for the year, they were alarmed. They had been told they could expect a raise of $3 to $4 an hour in their wages. “That meant a sixfold raise in a year,” says Rick Strank, then the City of Toronto’s executive director of human resources and labour relations. “It was a shock when they told us. We couldn’t go back to work. It was like a slap in the face.”
Strank says he was approached by an Omicron executive last year to buy the city and its back-office services, including human resources and labour relations, for $550 million. Strank says he told the Omicron executive he would have to approve such a purchase. Omicron’s offer, he says, was “like a knife in the back.”
The city’s staff were offered the opportunity to buy out of the deal if they chose. More than half of those offered that option left. A handful stayed. According to Strank, only a few of those who stayed did so out of resignation, belief that they could manage without the city.
The city never did approve the purchase. Omicron, who is now the city’s second-largest shareholder, became the new owner at the beginning of this month and now runs city operations on behalf of the government.
The Omicron deal is the city’s second major change in the last few months, with the first being the resignation this week of its chief operating officer, Bob Shapiro, and the retirement this month of its deputy mayor, Denzil Minnan-Wong, at the end of their terms.
It was Shapiro’s retirement and Minnan-Wong’s departure that sent ripples through the city’s