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TORONTO – The leader of Canadas largest municipal union local says that the City seems bent on provoking a city-wide strike.

For the first time in the citys history, the employer is distributing a sign-up sheet in an effort to get city workers to scab during a strike, says Ann Dembinski, the president of CUPE Local 79, which represents inside workers in the City of Toronto. Its not a great signal to send in a tense situation. If the city is counting on thousands of union members signing up, theyre in for a rude awakening. If they want to upset city workers, this is the way to do it.

CUPE says the city is playing games with the sign-up sheet. They have disclosed their contingency plans and they did not include using scabs, says Dembinski. The city is just trying to stir up trouble. Everything they do appears to be designed to provoke a work stoppage. They know that services will not be delivered if a strike occurs. Recruiting scabs is designed to intimidate our members.

The union is also concerned about a picket line protocol the city is asking the union to endorse. The city says it will continue workers benefits if the union agrees to let them determine how picket lines operate. The city is aware that no union could agree to this demand, says Dembinski. Its completely out of line.

CUPE Local 79 says union leaders are more concerned than ever that there will be insufficient time for their local to negotiate a contract. It is amazing how cavalier the city has been about bargaining, considering we are facing a strike of 24,000 people, says Dembinski. While the city continues to devote its time to giving the appearance of bargaining with CUPE Local 416, our local is losing valuable time, says Dembinski. Both city locals have been squeezed for negotiating time. Both locals suggested that the city provide concurrent bargaining tables, but the city refused.

CUPE Local 416, representing outside workers, is expected to be on strike by the end of the day, if its negotiations with the city fail to achieve an agreement.

CUPE Local 79 has 17,000 members, 15,000 of whom could be on strike by the end of the month if a settlement is not reached. The strike deadline for Local 79 is 12:01 a.m., Saturday, June 29. CUPE Local 79 represents inside workers including public health nurses, ambulance dispatchers, building inspectors, city planners, parks and recreation workers, clerical staff in all city departments, computer staff, social service workers, and others.


Shannon McManus, CUPE Communications: