After two days of bargaining the Town of Whitby, in Ontario, has doubled down on unnecessary concessions but striking municipal workers are feeling more emboldened than ever, said CUPE 53.

“We’re definitely surprised and disappointed by the employer’s behaviour at the table,” said Rob Radford, president of CUPE 53. “We’re disappointed that we were brought back to the table only to learn that the employer was doubling down. And we’re disappointed that decades of collaboration are being thrown out the window. But we’re on the line again today and, if anything, we’re going to ramp up our efforts because we know we’re in the right.”

The union says they believed that the two days of bargaining with the employer meant that the latter was prepared to listen and were possibly prepared to scrap the concessions. Instead, the employer let them know that their position hadn’t changed when it comes to scheduling and that, unless they were willing to accept it, there wouldn’t be a deal. The 300 full-time municipal workers have been on the line because the employer, says Radford, wants to force an indefinite number of temporary assignments on members; and want shift schedules where workers would be made available over a greater period of time, which could mean compressed work weeks, and rotating shifts. As of late, the union has called on council to play a bigger role in resolving the labour dispute by forcing the employer back to the table without their concessions.

“In a message to members, I reminded them that throughout the life of being a unionized workplace, the union has never blocked the employer changing shifts,” said Radford. “We have only insisted on being part of the process to ensure that there is collaboration before new schedules are enforced, and that we are a part of the process to ensure that members’ rights are protected when new schedules are established. We have a strong record of successfully collaborating with the employer - and, even up until last night, we’ve moved on key issues to try to make this work. Yet each time, the employer chose to double down.”

“But this is a strong group of workers. We’re going to keep putting the message out that these concessions are unnecessary and harmful, and that we deserve better.”

The picket lines are still running.

The striking workers are also continuing to ask residents of Whitby to send a message to the Town of Whitby here: