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Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 416 and CUPE 79, whose 25,000 members began strike action yesterday against the City of Toronto to defend hard-won collective agreement protections, benefits and working conditions, can count on the support and solidarity of CUPE Ontario.

It is unconscionable that the City of Toronto would use the pretense of the economic recession to attempt to extract benefit and working conditions concessions they were unable to remove during economic good times—and have seen fit to maintain for other workers employed by the city. The City of Toronto now joins the ranks of employers like the City of Windsor that have been emboldened to attack workers’ collective agreements during the economic downturn as cover.  In Windsor, members of CUPE Locals 543 and 82 have been on strike for three months defending hard-fought benefits.

These strikes are about defending hard-won rights for workers; they are about fairness and equal treatment, but they are also economic.  Modestly-paid municipal workers supply citizens with vital services that help working families.  These public services are more cost-effective—it’s why the city has contracted-back in garbage collection in all but one of the old cities that make up Toronto.  And city workers’ salaries contribute to making a local economy work.

The City of Toronto has picked the worst time to fight with CUPE members.  During an economic downturn, we need a city that will invest in people and support public services in order to help all of our citizens, and we need the continued wages of city workers to be pumped into our local economy.

We encourage all Ontario CUPE members to visibly show support for striking CUPE 416 and CUPE 79 members who, like CUPE Locals 543 and 82, are on the front lines defending workers’ rights and public city services.

We are so very proud of the amazing strength and resilience of CUPE members who are standing strong and fighting for fairness against employers at the bargaining table in all sectors.

Stay strong.

Sid Ryan    CUPE Ontario President                  416-209-0066                                        Fred Hahn  CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasur    416-540-3979