“Every time I come to an event like this I’m reminded about the tremendous power that employers have,” said NDP MPP Rosario Marchese, who joined the terminated Toronto-Dominion Centre workers picket line Monday outside the 66 Wellington Street West office in Toronto. “And the little power that employees have.”

Nobody knows that better than 61 CEP Local 2003 members.

On June 14, after the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Local 2003 (CEP) and Cadillac Fairview (CF) had failed to reach a collective agreement for either the maintenance/skilled trades or the engineers/building operators, all 61 Toronto-Dominion (TD) Centre workers were locked out by their employer. CF arranged for third party service providers to carry out all the work during the work stoppage.

Then a month later, all TD Centre workers were abruptly terminated when CF decided to enter into a permanent agreement with third party service providers.

“A number of these people have committed their entire working life to this employer and to be tossed out on the street and terminated as if they had no rights whatsoever is simply outrageous and we won’t stand for it,” said Bob Huget, Vice President, CEP Ontario Region. “This is nothing less than union busting.”

The union filed bad faith bargaining charges at the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) and a hearing has been scheduled for September.

Meanwhile, the group of 61 continues to pound the pavement daily outside the TD Centre, reminding passersby that CF, they said, wants workers with more than 20 years seniority to re-apply for their jobs, give up job security and severance entitlement.

“That just isn’t right,” said Marchese. “The employers are taking advantage of a crisis that’s been created by rich people in the financial industry.”

Doug Rothschild never thought he’d be marching outside the offices of CF, where he’s worked for 32 years as an electrician. “I figured I would finish out my days with CF, have a nice retirement and have a very good feeling about the company,” he said. “But this is not the case.”

Rothschild believes that CF is trying to pit the CEP against other unions as a ploy to break CEP Local 2003. For example, Ainsworth Electric, one of the third party service providers now used by CF, employs unionized electricians that are now doing a lot of the electrical, mechanical and technical work previously done by CEP 2003.

In his letter of July 14, CF VP and Divisional Portfolio Manager Steven Sorenson said, “CF has evaluated the performance of the temporary service provider…as well as the costs, and is pleased with the results and the success achieved over the past four weeks…and has now decided to enter into a permanent agreement with third party service providers.”

Last week, CEP Local 2003 spoke with various groups within the Toronto and York Region Labour Council as well as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBW) around the issue of union busting.

“Because if it’s us now, who knows what could happen in the future,” said Rothschild. “You don’t want to see any brother go against another brother.”

The IBW has already expressed solidarity with CEP Local 2003 and pledged money towards their picket group.

Are we seeing a trend across the country to outsource unionized jobs to avoid having to negotiate directly with the unions?

“Perhaps it may be a trend,” said Rothschild. “This may be the testing waters right here at the TD Centre. I’m hoping that we can bring a stop to it.”

The contract at the CF owned Eaton Centre is up next March and the security team at the TD Centre is slated for contract renewal next May. So it will be interesting to see how CF handles those negotiations.

At the time of the CEP Local 2003 lockout, the maintenance/skilled trades had been without a contract since October 31, 2008, the engineers/building operators since April 30, 2008 and there hadn’t been much in the way of meaningful negotiations.

Yet the union said they had indicated to CF, on several occasions, their interest in continuing to negotiate and work up to the time they were locked out.

It appears that the decision to replace the 61 workers with third party service providers may have been two years in the planning during which time various consultants were doing a thorough review of the jobs performed by the TD Centre workers.

“We were perhaps used where we thought that we were furthering the betterment of the tenants and our building by giving away a lot of our knowledge,” said Rothschild.

Eventually, said the union, “The application for the “no board” report was filed by the company.”

(A “no board” report is part of the collective bargaining process which allows for a legal strike or lockout. Requesting a “no board” report is an option that is available to either party.)

But the bad faith bargaining complaint, added the union, was filed long before the lockout because the company was engaging in unfair bargaining. The union said it was a way for them to pressure CF into sitting down at the bargaining table and negotiating a fair deal.

“The dispute is far from over,” continued the union. “And the picketing will continue until all our complaints and grievances are dealt with. Many things have occurred under the current management’s watch and we have continuously made everyone at every level in the organization aware, trying to solve these issues internally to no avail.”

Click here to see photos from the rally.

John Bonnar

John Bonnar is an independent journalist producing print, photo, video and audio stories about social justice issues in and around Toronto.