TORONTO—The heads of two unions representing City of Toronto workers - Mark Ferguson, president of CUPE local 416 Toronto Civic Employees Union, and Maureen O’Reilly, president of CUPE local 4948 Toronto Public Library Workers Union - gave an update on Friday on the state of bargaining.
O’Reilly announced that their bargaining team has requested conciliation; Ferguson aired his growing concern, amidst “one-sided” bargaining, that service providers will be locked out by the City.
“Bargaining usually involves two parties coming to the table with changes they want, and then negotiating something both can live with,” said Ferguson. “I have been at tables through the Lastman and Miller eras – they all worked that way. This is completely different – totally one-sided.”
Ferguson pointed out that his bargaining team has not sought any significant improvements to the agreement, and has in fact offered many efficiencies on their own initiative – including a way to make redeployment process smoother, and, notably, a three-year wage freeze that would save Toronto over $25 million to put towards community programs.
“But rather than acknowledge these offers – ones that would address their own concerns – the City has focused on over 60 desired changes. Demands, really, since they are unwilling to consider any counter-offers.
“We are concerned, just over a week from the point when the City can lock service providers out or tear-up their contract, that there is still no negotiating at the negotiating table.” Ms. O’Reilly joined Mr. Ferguson to air similar concerns, which have led her bargaining team to request a conciliator from the Ministry of Labour, in order to keep negotiations on track.
“Library management has made it clear that they will just demand from us whatever they can win from 416,” said O’Reilly. “It worries us that they aren’t really negotiating with us, and that negotiations with our fellow public servants show no sign of commitment on the City’s part to maintaining service.”
O’Reilly also voiced concern about increased reliance on precarious, part-time work at the City in general, and Toronto Public Library specifically. “Libraries lost 107 positions to the budget, which means loss of service,” she said. “Half our members are already part-time. Even as library use grows, we’re working with fewer and fewer staff, who make less and less money to do more and more work.
“Libraries work because of librarians. If the City targets basic protections for staff, they are targeting basic services. And if they lock out public servants, they are locking out the people who use public services. We are asking for a real sign from the City that they want to keep public services open.”
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