TORONTO - More than 15,000 “inside” employees of the City of Toronto are joining 6,800 co-workers on the picket lines in the biggest municipal strike in Canadian history. A strike by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79 began at 12:01 a.m. today.
“We have made every effort to negotiate collective agreements with the City of Toronto,” Ann Dembinski, the president of the local, told a news conference last night. “It has become clear that the politicians in charge of these negotiations don’t want to negotiate. They want to see 24,000 municipal workers on strike.”
Dembinski said that the members of her local would be joining members of CUPE Local 416, representing “outside” workers, on the picket lines because “their issues are our issues.”
The two municipal union locals are on strike because the city is demanding concessions on job security language. “The city says we want jobs for life,” said Dembinski. “City workers do not have jobs for life. There is no such thing. What we have had is an agreement that permanent employees with 10 years or more service cannot be laid off because of contracting out. Now, the city wants rid of that language because it wants to privatize city services and contract out our work.”
CUPE National President Judy Darcy told the news conference that: “With the city hosting World Youth Day in a few weeks, what kind of signal does it send to the youth of this city and the world when this employer wants to make sure that young people have no access to employment security. This dispute is about the future of our youth, the future of our city and the future of public services.”
Three thousand of CUPE Local 79’s 18,000 members are “essential” workers who do not have the right to strike – workers in Homes for the Aged and ambulance dispatchers. Many of them will be joining the picket lines on their lunch hours and after work.
The contract talks have covered four collective agreements: for permanent and temporary full-time workers, for part-time workers in 10 Homes for the Aged, for part-time workers in the parks and recreation department, and a fourth contract for part-time workers in other city departments. Some of the hundreds of services that will be affected are child care, homeless shelters, social assistance, building inspections, city planning, public health, food inspection, and recreation centres.
For further information: Shannon McManus, CUPE Communications, (416) 292-3999 ext. 222