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TORONTO – Hundreds of members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario voted unanimously in favour of an action plan to support Toronto city workers yesterday. Members of the union’s locals across Toronto met at the Sheraton Hotel on Queen Street to map out their support.

While four Toronto locals continue to negotiate, members in other locals have been asking how they can show their support. These are people who live and work in Toronto, and want to protect the public services that make this city great,” said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn.

CUPE Locals 79, 416, 4948 and 2998 are currently in negotiations with the City of Toronto. Local 2 members are bargaining with the TTC and Toronto Hydro workers in Local 1 are facing layoffs after the Ontario Energy Board rejected a proposed rate increase to help repair the city’s ageing electricity infrastructure.

When someone has given 10, 15 or 20 years of their life to providing good-quality services in Toronto there ought to be some measure of security for those workers. And that is a standard that is not unusual, it is a standard that is across-the-board in terms of labour negotiations,” said Hahn.

Broadly, the action plan directs CUPE Locals in the Greater Toronto Area to talk to their 100,000 members to enhance their ability to talk directly to city councillors about the sort of city they want to live in. “It will be a person-to-person campaign,” said Hahn. “Workers will talk to friends, family and co-workers to dispel myths about Toronto contracts and public services.“

Toronto CUPE members also committed to work with community coalition partners, hearing pledges of support and words of inspiration from John Cartwright, President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council and Angela Robertson, an long-time community activist and former Executive Director of Sistering, an organization providing support to homeless and low-income women.

Robertson reminded CUPE members of the important role of unions in combating economic and social inequalities, using the occasion of Martin Luther King Day to inspire participants with a quote from Dr. King. “The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress,” Robertson quoted Dr. King as saying.  “Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, government relief for the destitute and, above all, new wage levels that meant not mere survival but a tolerable life. The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome.” 

Hahn was also joined at the meeting by CUPE National President Paul Moist and Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury. Members came mostly from Toronto and surrounding communities, but some arrived from as far away as Windsor, Ottawa, Kingston and North Bay out of concern for the Toronto situation.

For more information, please contact:

Fred Hahn
President, CUPE Ontario

Craig Saunders
CUPE Communications

Related articles:

Toronto residents want services preserved, think Ford is on “wrong track”: poll (January 17, 2012)

Union offers solution to protect City services, solve contract differences (January 13, 2012)