The leaders of Ontario’s largest municipal unions, representing more than 24,000 City of Toronto employees, announced today that they will soon be in a legal strike or lockout position unless the city drops its demands for concessions and gets serious about reaching a deal.
Both CUPE Local 79, the union for about 18,000 inside workers, and Toronto Civic Employees Union Local 416 CUPE, representing 6,200 outside workers, have asked their government-appointed conciliators to file a “no-board” report.
“We have been ready to finalize a new collective agreement since early April,” said Ann Dembinski, president of CUPE Local 79, which has four collective agreements with the city. “Nobody wants a strike, but our talks have almost ground to a halt. The city won’t talk unless we agree to negotiate concessions.”
City of Toronto negotiators are also looking for concessions – more than 100 pages of them – from Local 416.
“We have put proposals on the table ourselves that would see improved accountability, affordability and availability of city services for years to come,” said President Mark Ferguson. “Unfortunately, the city is resisting innovations. They’re more interested in gutting contract language that we have won over decades through collective bargaining, strikes and awards from independent arbitrators.”
Neither local has received a wage offer from the city.
In votes held last month, both locals received overwhelming strike mandates from their members.
“Nobody wants a strike,” said Dembinski. “But we are not here to bargain away the rights of our members. Other workers in the City of Toronto and in surrounding GTA municipalities have been able to negotiate new collective agreements without concessions. Our members have said clearly that they do not want to be treated like second-class citizens.”
“I’d hoped we were past the days when it was the norm for the City of Toronto to attack its employees,” Ferguson said. “That kind of labour relations climate is what caused a bitter strike in 2002 – the largest strike of municipal workers in Canadian history. We don’t want to see a return to that kind of bitter labour relations climate.”
It’s time for the City of Toronto to get serious about negotiating fair contracts and averting job action, the two leaders said.