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Toronto unveils contingency plan in case of strike

The city has released its contingency plan for service delivery in the event of a labour disruption
Feb. 12, 2016
By Betsy Powell

If city staff go on strike or are locked out, garbage pickup east of Yonge Street will stop and city-operated ice arenas, museums and art galleries will be closed for business.

These are some of the services that could be suspended as early as the end of next week if the city and CUPE Locals 79 and 416 fail to reach a contract agreement.

“In the event of a labour disruption, there will be significant, material impacts on the vital services offered by the city,” city manager Peter Wallace told a news conference at city hall Friday.

City managers have been developing a contingency plan in the event of a work stoppage, prioritizing services that protect the health and safety of Toronto citizens and the most vulnerable, Wallace said.

“We have ... organized ourselves in terms of things that are urgent, things that are a higher priority will be dealt with. Things that are more routine will slide.”

Essential services won’t be affected: paramedics, long-term care homes, continue to operate as usual, he said. As well, TTC, police, fire and Toronto Community Housing won’t be affected.

If there’s a winter storm, the city relies on external contractors to plow the snow and “that will continue business as usual.”

CUPE represents about 25,000 city employees. About 4,200 management and non-union staff will fill in as needed, he said.

Businesses and residents east of Yonge St. who rely on the city to pick up their trash will be asked to store their garbage, recycling and organics for a week, deputy city manager John Livey said.

The city will open temporary disposal sites a week later, he added, but will ask residents to store their recycling for the duration of a work stoppage.

Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong said the city does not want a labour disruption and is still hoping for a deal.

There is “no discussion on our side about a lockout but at the end of the day the clock continues to tick ... so it is incumbent upon the city to be ready,” he said.

Minnan-Wong declined to say why city workers - and not the powerful Toronto Police Association - are being asked to make concessions in their benefit packages. The police union negotiated wage hikes of more than 8 per cent over four years for members while benefits for existing officers were left virtually untouched.

The last time the city bargained with CUPE Locals 79 and 416, it saved $141 million by “changes to workplace practices and benefits,” according to a city document.

“We’re not picking on any union,” Minnan-Wong responded. “We made what we think is an exceptionally fair offer.”

Union leaders said Friday they have put proposals before the city two days ago and are still waiting for a response.

“We think the city’s exaggerating on the cost of the modest proposals that we’ve put on the table,” CUPE Local 79 president Tim Maguire. “Rather than focusing on service disruption, that’s not where we’re at, we’re at negotiating collective agreements.”

Outside workers are in a legal strike or lockout position as of 12:01 a.m. next Friday. Inside workers, represented by CUPE 79, are in a legal strike position as of 12:01 a.m. the following day.