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An arbitration decision handed down last week was a clear victory for Toronto municipal workers.

Arbitrator Tim Armstrong was appointed in July when workers were legislated back to work by the province, following the largest municipal strike in Canadian history. CUPE 416, representing outside workers, was on strike for 16 days and CUPE 79, representing inside workers, was on strike for eight days.

The main issue in dispute was job security in the event of contracting out. The employer took the position job security had to be “phased out” but arbitrator Armstrong clearly rejected that, safeguarding current protections.

As well, workers won a 3 per cent wage increase in each year of the three-year contract – 5 per cent in the case of paramedics. As well, there were gains in benefits and seniority rights in a number of areas, including layoff and recall, assignment of duties and filling job vacancies.

“This award solidly endorses the union’s position,” says Local 416 president Brian Cochrane. “While we hoped to make gains on job security, given the City’s mission to privatize public services, we’re pleased the arbitrator recognized job security and protected what we had.

“His decision signals to the residents of Toronto that this summer’s strike did not have to happen. The City pushed us out on the streets because of an ideological commitment to privatizing, and because of a fundamental lack of respect for frontline workers.”

“We see this as a major victory for both a demoralized workforce and for the people of Toronto,” says Local 79 president Anne Dembinski. “All along we said it was not about money – it was about job security and retaining quality public services. This decision sends a clear message to the politicians that they cannot treat city workers as disposable. We want the City to pay attention to that message and abandon plans to contract out our work.”