The province of Ontario has passed back-to-work legislation, putting an end to the 16-day strike by CUPE Local 416 and the 8-day strike by CUPE Local 79. The legal strike by 22,000 municipal workers in Toronto was the largest of its kind in Canadian history. Key issues were job security and the fight against contracting out and privatization.
Ontario’s NDP worked hard to negotiate a fair process of mediation-arbitration within the legislation. At the eleventh hour on July 11, a deal was brokered that will allow for a fair system. Virtually all of the things that the province and the city initially proposed as part of the process were defeated to speed passage of the legislation. Many of the matters that were crucial for the unions are included in the back-to-work bill.
“We opposed the introduction of this legislation,” said CUPE Local 416 President Brian Cochrane. “Back-to-work legislation is an attack on our right to freely negotiate collective agreements, an attack on the most fundamental principles of trade unionism, and we will always oppose it.”
“The city has been working hard to try and bust our union while they usher in private services in the city of Toronto,” said CUPE Local 79 President Ann Dembinski. “Despite the withdrawal of important services and garbage piling up on Toronto streets, the city consistently refused to negotiate a settlement with the two unions whose members are defending their jobs and public services.”
As Toronto workers return to work, the process to select a mutually agreeable arbitrator is already underway.