City of Toronto and workers deadlocked as one strike deadline passes
Thousands of City of Toronto workers could legally go on strike after midnight, but as of early Friday, the city and its unions were still talking.
Feb. 18, 2016
The City of Toronto and more than 28,000 unionized workers remained deadlocked Thursday night — with one union’s deadline passing and another's drawing nearer — as a possible job disruption that could severely disrupt services to residents loomed.
Mayor John Tory said earlier Thursday he wants a new contract — but members of CUPE locals 416 and 79 must agree to cuts to their benefits on top of deep concessions they made to get a contract in 2012.
“The city will not and cannot give in to demands for more money and make no adjustments to extremely generous benefit provisions,” Tory told reporters in his office.
“That is simply not possible.”
A short time later Tim Maguire, president of Local 79 that represents 23,100 “inside” workers, including child care and shelter workers, nurses, cleaners and planners, said the union has dropped demands for benefits enhancements, but cannot agree to cuts.
“The city said (in 2012) $141 million would be saved over the term of our collective agreements, and yet they’re back for more” concessions, Maguire said. The previous administration boasted that deal gave the city the “flexibility” it needs to be efficient.
Some 5,400 Local 416 outside workers, including garbage collectors and staff in water and parks departments, could legally strike or be locked out by the city starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday, though talks went on past that deadline as negotiations continued into the night. The inside workers in Local 79 will be in the same position one day later.
Tory said suggested there is a real chance of a job disruption if they can’t find common ground.
The city could, after the deadlines pass, force the union to put its final offer to a vote — Maguire says his members would reject it — or impose new working terms and conditions of the city’s choosing on its employees.
Maguire said the unions don’t feel deadline pressure, and are happy to work with the city to find cost efficiencies on benefits and more as long as it doesn’t hurt his membership, three-quarters of whom are women and many of whom are part-time.
“If it takes beyond today, if it takes beyond tomorrow, let’s find solutions,” he said.
Imposing a new contract could trigger a strike. “We would look at our options in terms of pushing back against that strategy,” Maguire said.
A look at what’s on the table
The deal: Concession-laden collective agreements with Locals 416 and 79 expired on Dec. 31. They are seeking new four-year contracts.
The issues: According to a union circular, the city wants benefit concessions including staff using only generic drugs, producing a “prescription” before receiving physiotherapy and higher payments for dental and group life insurance benefits. CUPE also wants some full-time temporary and part-time workers given permanent full-time status, saying they now have no certainty of schedule. Employees collecting long-term disability would be charged a premium, potentially costing thousands of dollars every year.
What happens next: The two sides could agree on a deal that would be taken to union members for a ratification vote. They could keep negotiating indefinitely. The city could force a final offer be put to staff for a vote or impose new working terms and conditions that could theoretically include a halt of union dues collection. The workers could strike or the city could lock them out.