Toronto outside workers settle, inside workers work-to-rule for new contract

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Toronto City outside workers will decide in the next few days whether to accept the new terms of their proposed collective debated during a marathon night of contract negotiations.

Local 416 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the City of Toronto confirmed about 1:00 p.m. on Friday that a tentative agreement had been reached over a new contract affecting about 5,400 outside workers. 

Bargaining between Local 416, which represents outside service staff including garbage collection workers, paramedics and water services staff, and the City began in October.

The deadline for a legal strike or lockout period passed at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, however, negotiations between the two parties continued through the night and into the morning at a downtown Toronto hotel.

"This was a very difficult round of bargaining," said Matt Alloway, chapter committee member and spokesman, in a statement.

"We will be putting this tentative agreement before our membership in the days ahead and recommending its ratification.

"Until then, we will not be making comment or providing details of this deal," he said.

The bargaining between Alloway's chapter and the City has taken place alongside negotiations over a new collective for the City's inside workers.

CUPE local 79, which represents about 20,000 of these workers, has been at the bargaining table for the City's nurses, cleaners, child-care staff and social service employees.

The work stoppage deadline for these workers was 12:01 a.m. Saturday. These workers started a work-to-rule campaign this morning.

Both the City and local 79 have stated they would like to avoid a work disruption, which would close all child-care centres run by the City, community centres and arenas, and ice rinks and pools. The issuing of building permits would also cease.

Local 79 president Tim Maguire said changes tabled for the inside workers' collective contract have been similar to what has been presented to local 416 during the three months of its negotiations.

While both local 416 and the City declined to give details around the tentative agreement it had agreed on today, proposed changes amending the workers' benefit schedule, employee job security and predictability of work schedule for part-time employees caused major disagreements during negotiation process.

The union previously stated the proposed cuts to workers' benefits were the most devastating ever seen, while the City said the union's proposal added "$9.5 million in benefit enhancements."

Meanwhile, the union representing Toronto public library workers -- which began negotiations over a new collective for its members last Wednesday -- said it would be focusing on precarious work conditions during bargaining.

"We're a female-dominated workplace," said Maureen O'Reilly, president of the Toronto Public Library Workers' union, CUPE local 4948.

"Precarious work hurts women, racialized workers and youth the most. We have given generously to the City's fiscal responsibility -- saving money off the backs of the most vulnerable workers in the library is just no longer acceptable."

The local's 2,300 members had been following the negotiations between the City and its inside and outside workers closely, she said.

"Members are concerned -- anything that happens at the City is going to impact them."

"We don't expect to see anything substantially different than what's at the City tables right now."


Teuila Fuatai is a recent transplant to Canada from Auckland, New Zealand. She settled in Toronto in September following a five-month travel stint around the United States. In New Zealand, she worked as a general news reporter for the New Zealand Herald and APNZ News Service for four years after studying accounting, communication and politics at the University of Otago. As a student, she had her own radio show on the local university station and wrote for the student magazine. She is rabble's labour beat reporter this year.

Photo: flickr/ Kat Northern Lights Man

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