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2012 lockout/strike in the media (1)

November 2011 - January 13, 2012 08-Jan-2012 [897]

Table of Contents

From the Globe and Mail January 13, 2012:

Toronto union president offers to flat-line wages for thousands of outside workers

The Toronto public-sector union on the precipice of work stoppage has played an unexpected gambit in its negotiations with the city.

Mark Ferguson, President of CUPE Local 416, is offering to flat-line wages for his over 6,000 outside workers for the next three years, a move that contradicts the city’s claims that Mr. Ferguson has refused all its demands.


Savings from the proposal would total $8.5-million each year of the three-year contract.

The proposal would essentially carry over the current contract, which expired on Dec. 31.

For its part, city negotiators have not been focusing on wages. Their goal during this round of negotiations is to stamp out job-security provisions that virtually guarantee that all workers displaced by contracting out will retain a job somewhere within the municipality.

The complete article

From the Toronto Sun January 13, 2012

CUPE offers wage freeze pledge

City negotiators may have nicknamed him "Dr. No" but CUPE Local 416 president Mark Ferguson is vowing to be Mr. Freeze.

Ferguson is expected to roll out a wage freeze pledge Friday morning.

It isn't clear if the pledge will satisfy city negotiators who have targeted several terms of employment in the collective agreement including job security provisions.

The complete article

From the Globe and Mail January 12, 2012

Labour shutdown a step closer for Toronto

Toronto is on course for a mass labour shutdown within three weeks.

The city staggered one step closer to that outcome on Thursday, asking the province to declare a deadlock in negotiations with its second-largest union, CUPE Local 416, representing more than 6,000 outside workers, including garbage collectors and paramedics.

That request for an adjudicated stalemate – formally known as a no-board report – could be granted as early as Tuesday, launching a 17-day countdown until either side can formally declare a strike or lockout.


The earliest possible for a work stoppage given that timeline would be Feb. 3.

The no-board request escalates talks to a round-the-clock operation. Bargaining teams had been meeting at the East York Civic Centre. With the newly compressed timeline, they will move to an off-sight hotel so that negotiations can take place on a 24-hour basis.


The union has agreed to more than 30 of 70 of the city’s demands, according to Local 416 president Mark Ferguson, but job security provisions remain the major sticking point.

Mr. Ferguson said the union is willing to negotiate every aspect of the contract, but that the city has granted just two half-day bargaining sessions plus three minutes on Thursday. During previous bargaining periods, the two sides have accumulated more than 100 days of negotiations before a no-board request.


The city has already ramped up efforts to prepare for a work stoppage, training supervisors on Zambonis and heavy-equipment operation, hiring companies to provide contingency services and erecting large fences around transfer stations to deter the kind of union blockades that took place during the 2009 strike.

This round of negotiations are especially packed with issues to work out over the massive move towards contracting out garbage collection, custodial, maintenance, security and other services at the city. The current agreement expired on Dec. 31.

The mayor told The Globe and Mail in December that he wants to shed 7,000 city jobs “give or take.”

The complete article

From the Star January 12, 2012:

February lockout possible as city announces a deadlock in talks

Mayor Rob Ford’s administration has forced contract talks with unionized workers closer to a February lockout or strike, by asking a provincial mediator to declare a deadlock in talks with 6,000 outside workers.

The city expects Ontario Labour Minister Linda Jeffrey to issue a report affirming the deadlock on Tuesday. A city lockout, or union strike, would become legal 17 days later, around Feb. 3.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, chair of the city’s labour relations committee, accused the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 416 of being unwilling to negotiate. The administration’s Thursday request for the “no-board” report is merely intended to apply pressure on Local 416, he said.


CUPE Local 416 President Mark Ferguson said it is the Ford administration that is unwilling to negotiate. He called the city’s decision “hasty” and “counterproductive.”

“The sole function of (a ‘no-board’ report) is to ensure they are one step closer to their lockout,” Ferguson told reporters at an evening news conference. “We’re not looking to take a strike. If there is a labour disruption in the city of Toronto it will be solely at the feet of this administration.”

The complete articles

David Nickle in January 12, 2012

City seeks no board report from province on labour negotiations

Report would put city and union in legal position for work stoppage The City of Toronto has asked a provincial conciliator to issue a no-board report in negotiations it's having with unions representing its workers, setting the clock ticking toward a deadline for a strike or lockout.

The move, which has been predicted by CUPE Local 416 President Mark Ferguson since the fall, comes just over a week after the contracts had expired between the city and its workers.

Ferguson maintained that the city is aiming to lock workers out to achieve a range of concessions.

Once issued, a no-board report gives 17 days until either workers are entitled to walk off the job or the employer can lock workers out.


Toronto's deputy mayor and chair of the city's labour relations committee, Doug Holyday, said the decision to call for a no-board report doesn't mean the city is walking away from negotiations.


Holyday said that Ferguson has been obstinate and refused to deal with issues the city believes are essential.

"We try and negotiate - we can put proposals forward to the union but Mr. Ferguson has said no to everything," Holyday said. "Our negotiators refer to him as Doctor No. And we don't want to wait to unfold in the good weather when they're more likely to cause a strike."

The complete article

From the Toronto Sun January 12, 2012

City just days from possible lockout or strike

The City of Toronto took a giant step towards a 2012 labour disruption Thursday.

In only the third meeting with Local 416 and a provincial conciliator, City of Toronto negotiators announced Thursday that they were at a bargaining impasse and would be filing for a “no board report” with the Ontario Labour Minister - the next legal step in the march towards a lockout or strike.

According to those in the room, Thursday’s meeting lasted less than 3 minutes.


Mayor Rob Ford refused to answer questions about a lockout, deferring questions to Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, the chairman of the city’s employee and labour relations committee.


Holyday stressed the city wants a “fair and reasonable” agreement with all the city’s unions.

“It is a little more difficult this time because we do want to change some clauses in the contract so that we can provide better service at a fairer price for our taxpayers,” he said.

CUPE Local 416 president Mark Ferguson called the city’s move “hasty” and accused Ford’s administration of solely being interested in a labour disruption.

“Rather than negotiate they decided to drop the hammer,” he told the Sun last night.

During a press conference at the East York civic centre, Ferguson said the union has no plans to strike and wants to negotiate as much as possible over the next three weeks.


Councillor Adam Vaughan said he was “disappointed” by Thursday’s decision.

“Nobody wants city services suspended, I hope,” Vaughan said. “I think it is incumbent on all sides to keep talking.”

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said the city has done everything it could to have “meaningful dialogue and negotiation.”

“We’ve gotten very little from (Local 416) and quite frankly we’re not interested in bargaining with ourselves,” Minnan-Wong said. Councillor Janet Davis said Ford seems “intent on precipitating a labour dispute in this city.”


Negotiators from the city are still meeting with CUPE Local 79 and a provincial conciliator. They are set to meet again Friday.

The complete article

From the CBC January 11, 2012

Labour issues could affect Toronto minor hockey

A labour dispute in Toronto threatens to interrupt the hockey season for up to 18,000 minor hockey players.


Ed Wahl, the president of the S.H.A. Hockey Club, fears that a work stoppage will end hockey for kids across the city. The 1,100 players in his organization use five rinks, all of which are city owned and will likely close in the event of a strike or lockout.


A work stoppage could cancel a tournament scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 9 that the organization was hoping would raise $15,000. That money would go to offset a subsidy given this year by not raising registration fees.

... The S.H.A. Hockey Club isn’t alone in preparing for a stoppage. The West Mall Lightning Minor Hockey Association stands to lose about 75 per cent of its ice time, according to president Rich Ternieden.


A labour disruption could close 32 per cent of the rinks used by the Greater Toronto Hockey League, according to executive director Scott Oakman, who noted the hardest hit would be the house leagues, which constitute about 18,000 players in the Toronto area.

The complete article

From the Toronto Sun January 10.2012:

Union to City: No concessions

CUPE Local 416 president Mark Ferguson said the city will have to take concessions off the table if it wants an agreement.

Ferguson told the Toronto Sun the union met again with the city’s negotiating team and a provincial conciliator on Tuesday but the two sides are in the same position they were before the city applied for conciliation.

“It is going to be a very difficult round. Until some of the concessions come off the table, we’re going to have a difficult time reaching an agreement,” Ferguson said.

“It is the city that is looking to gut the collective agreement, so really it is, I believe, in their ballpark to take those concessions off the table.”

The complete article

From the Star January 10, 2012:

Will Toronto labour disruption derail developers?

Will next month’s meeting of the busy Toronto and East York community council go ahead if there’s a labour disruption affecting city operations?

The chair of the community council, Councillor Gord Perks, says he’s asked but is still waiting for answers.

Perks told Tuesday’s community council meeting that he doesn’t know if reviewing development proposals and issuing building permits would continue.

The Toronto and East York community council, including the booming downtown area, typically has a busy agenda with long meetings to handle in excess of 100 items at each monthly meeting.

The community council, made up of 12 city councillors, reviews proposed developments, patio and vending permits, front yard parking appeals, speed humps and a host of other matters.


Perks said he was told that staff would be available to answer questions at Tuesday’s community council but no senior officials showed up to the meeting.

He took the unusual step of publicly asking if anyone from the city manager’s office was prepared to respond. His question was met with silence.

The complete article

From the National Post January 9, 2012:

Tensions grow over EMS’ lack of essential designation

An ongoing labour dispute is stoking tensions between the city and Toronto paramedics over why EMS has not been declared an essential service — particularly after the TTC earned that designation last spring.

The Ontario Labour Relations Board is expected to rule this month on what percentage of paramedics must continue to work in the event of a strike or lockout, a prospect that looks increasingly likely amid a public standoff between the city and CUPE Local 416, the union representing paramedics and other outside workers.

The city wants the labour relations board to require that staffing levels at Toronto Emergency Medical Services remain at 100% during a labour disruption, up from the current 75%. But paramedics argue this is simply a backdoor way to remove their right to strike without declaring them an essential service, like police and firefighters, and most recently the transit commission.


In addition to removing the right to strike, an essential-service designation stipulates that labour disputes are resolved by binding arbitration, a process that would likely lead to costlier settlements. At a time of budgetary belt-tightening, the city does not want to go there.


While paramedics agree with the city that they should continue working at 100% staffing levels during a strike or lockout, they want the other benefits that come along with an essential-service designation in return, CUPE Local 416 president Mark Ferguson said.

Paramedics have been lobbying the province for an essential-service designation for the past decade, Mr. Gillies noted, adding morale has plummeted over the years because of a perceived lack of respect for their work.

The complete article

From the Star January 9, 2012:

Mediator brings city, outside workers together

Negotiators for CUPE Local 416 and the City of Toronto met Monday for the first time with a provincially appointed mediator, and agreed to meet again Tuesday afternoon.

The morning-long meeting was the first time the two sides have sat across from each other since Dec. 14, when talks broke down in what looks like a showdown between city workers and the Mayor Rob Ford administration.

Mark Ferguson, president of Local 416, representing about 6,000 City of Toronto “outside workers”, said it “was more of an administrative meeting,” than real bargaining.

The union proposed 30 possible meeting dates between now and the beginning of March, Ferguson said, and hopes to hear the city’s response when they meet again Tuesday at 1 p.m.


If not, Small will make a report to Ontario Labour Minister Linda Jeffrey who can then issue what’s called a “no board” report. Seventeen days after that, the city could lock out workers and workers could strike.

The complete article

From the Toronto Sun January 8:

Paramedics demand respect

A spokesman for Toronto’s 850 paramedics says city officials are treating them like “poor second cousins” for refusing to delcare EMS an essential service.

In fact, city officials went to the Ontario Labour Relations Board on Dec.

19 asking that Toronto EMS be staffed 100% in the event of a lockout — without any obligation by the city to send the paramedic contract to arbitration.

Paramedics are part of CUPE 416 and have an essential services agreement with the city to be on the job in the event of a lockout or strike. During the strike of 2009, 75% of the paramedic force was on the road and 25% off the job.

However, if they were declared an essential service, their contract demands would go straight to arbitration during a labour disruption instead of being dependent on the outcome of a strike.

The OLRB ruling is expected to be released this week.

The complete article

From Sue-Ann Levy Toronto Sun January 8, 2011:

City won't play into unions' hands

Fact is, CUPE 416 and 79, which collectively represent nearly 30,000 inside and outside workers with the city, are facing a vastly different labour relations climate than under former mayors David Miller and Mel Lastman.

Like it or not, this time around they are no longer calling the shots with respect to the timetable of contract negotiations.

In each round of bargaining — specifically under Lastman in 2002 and Miller in 2009 — I watched as the union bosses dragged their heels at the table (demanding the sun, the moon and the stars) until the summer rolled around and they could make the biggest “stink” with a strike. The city’s bargaining team and most of council fell right into the trap.

Not this time, however.


Which brings me to the contract negotiations themselves.

Despite Ferguson’s latest attempts to muddy the waters that the city’s contract with CUPE is no richer than other cities in Ontario, let me make one thing perfectly clear.

It is far richer.

It’s not just the fact that the current contract ties the hands of city officials from contracting out any job of any permanent employee with more than 10 years of service — meaning most city employees.

But in 2009, Miller guaranteed there would no new contracting out of any jobs during the three-year contract that just expired last Dec. 31.

Believe me, it does not stop there — as I’ve pointed out in recent columns.

There’s the triple time for any city worker, garbage or otherwise, who has the good fortune to work on Remembrance Day — a provision that saw each of the 548 garbage workers on the job this past Nov. 11 pocketing $810 just for that one day alone!

There’s the premium of $1 (on weekdays) and $2/per hour (on weekends) for any union worker on the afternoon or evening shifts.

Then there’s the elaborate bumping provisions. Take, for example, the provision in the contract which allows anyone whose job is eliminated to bump someone at a lower level — but continue to make the old (higher) wage rate for three years, or five if that employee is within five years of retirement.

The complete article

From The Star January 7. 2011:

KPMG suggests outsourcing city cleaning, security jobs

A newly released KPMG report suggests one reason the Mayor Rob Ford administration is so keen to strip ironclad job security provisions from unionized city workers.

The efficiency study on the management of city facilities suggests, among other things, outsourcing security, cleaning and maintenance to save the city up to $26 million a year.

But while laying out various scenarios in which the work could be tendered to a private company — undoubtedly involving sizable layoffs — KPMG notes about 80 per cent of the targeted workers are unionized.

“The current collective agreements do not allow contracting out of work that results directly or indirectly in the layoff or loss of employment of permanent employees,” the report states. “These agreements expire at the end of 2011.”

In fact, the contract for CUPE Local 79, the union for most of the 1,016 custodial staff, 188 security staff and 288 maintenance workers on the city payroll, expired Sunday.

The complete article

From the National Post, Jan.7 2012:

Conciliator will meet with city, union

Denise Small, a veteran conciliator who is married to former Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove, was recently assigned to the high-profile talks that have foundered so far.....The contracts of 6,000 "outside" workers, represented by Local 416, and 23,000 "inside" workers, represented by CUPE Local 79, expired on Dec.31. The city asked the province to appoint neutral conciliators to both talks to help reach an agreement. Local 70 and the City have been meeting with mediator Simon Clarke since Dec.9."

The complete article

From the Toronto Sun January 6:

Buyouts to line city worker pockets

Some of the more than 700 city employees axed by the 2012 budget and others caught up in any future downsizing effort at Mayor Rob Ford’s City Hall could be offered buyouts just to rush them out the door.

In a report going to the city’s budget committee Monday, city manager Joe Pennachetti asks for approval to keep the voluntary separation program (VSP) going on an “as-needed basis” to help with layoffs approved in the 2012 budget and downsizing plans.


The draft budget recommends the jobs of 714 current City of Toronto employees be permanently deleted, 666 of those employees are unionized workers.

In his report, Pennachetti argues the redeployment and bumping process guaranteed in the collective agreements with the city’s unions are “time consuming, labour intensive processes that are disruptive to the workplace” while buyouts would allow the city to stop the costs of the position immediately.

Pennachetti points out during the bumping process, an employee stays on the payroll and the city must continue to pay salary and benefits “even if they have deemed that the position is no longer required in their division.”

Budget Chief Mike Del Grande said even if people were laid off without buyouts, it would still cost the city money.


Del Grande, a member of the employee and labour relations committee, complained the city’s bumping process can be lengthy and costly.

“Why do you think we’re being hard-nosed about the contract? Enough is enough ... It should be like in private industry, ‘thank you very much, here’s your severance in lieu of notice, enjoy life.’” he said.

The complete article

From the Star January 6, 2012:

City negotiators get their directions for talks with workers

City managers in bitterly tough contract talks with unions for about 30,000 workers have new marching orders that unsettled some of the few who know the details.

On Thursday, the city’s employee and labour relations committee got an update on talks and authorized the negotiators’ mandate. Members said revealing it would weaken the city’s bargaining position — a secrecy in keeping with past talks.


Councillor Chin Lee, a committee member, said after the meeting: “All I can tell you is, all options are open. There were two or three things that do not reflect my preference, but I can’t say any more because it was in camera.”

Councillor Janet Davis, who is not on the committee but sat in on the closed-doors part of the meeting, later said: “I just think this is an extreme mandate,” and she is “very concerned and saddened” by the city’s direction.

Councillor Shelley Carroll, who also sat in on the session, would only say she doesn’t agree with the mandate approved.

Committee chair Doug Holyday, who is also deputy mayor, said the “broad range of instructions” includes some “difficult, but not extreme,” options endorsed by five of six committee members.

“The negotiators are now in a position of power — the union knows they mean business,” he said.

The complete article

From The Star, January 6, 2012

Conciliator appointed for city talks with workers

A provincial mediator hoping to break the impasse between the City of Toronto and its outside workers will bring the two sides together Monday.

In a bargaining update, the city said the Ontario Ministry of Labour has appointed mediator Denise Small to help with the talks with CUPE Local 416.

The complete article

David Nickle in January 5, 2012:

Labour committee backs city negotiators' strategy with unions

Councillor Davis critical of 'extreme mandate'

Toronto's employee and labour relations committee sat down with city negotiators behind closed doors the morning of Thursday, Jan. 5, and delivered what one city councillor attending the meeting called an "extreme mandate" to continue negotiating with the city's inside and outside workers.


The meeting of the committee chaired by Toronto's Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday was the first of 2012, and the first briefing the committee has had from negotiators since the contracts for CUPE Local 416 and CUPE Local 79 expired at the end of 2011.

Councillors and committee members received the briefing at an in camera session and voted on a simple motion to approve the instructions given staff without debate when they emerged into public session.

But during the private session, Ward 33 Don Valley East Councillor Shelley Carroll - a critic of the mayor - emerged with obvious exasperation halfway through, and refused to comment.

When the meeting went public, Ward 31 Beaches-East York Councillor Janet Davis delivered a short and bitter speech:

"I want to say, I am very concerned and saddened by the decision that's been made by this committee. I don't believe that it reflects the will of council. I wish you good luck," she said, and left the room.

Of all the councillors on the committee, only Ward 41 Scarborough-Rouge River Councillor Chin Lee voted against the instructions. He said he would not make himself available for comment on his vote.

The complete article

From the National Post January 5, 2012:

Labour mandate may be too ‘extreme’: councillor

Mayor Rob Ford’s employee and labour relations committee has issued a set of instructions — “extreme” by one account, “responsible” by another — to negotiators embroiled in a tense round of contract talks with the city’s public sector unions.

The decision was made in a private session, and therefore the details remain confidential. But at least one member of the opposition had an ominous reaction, and wished the administration “good luck.”

“I just think this is quite an extreme mandate that we haven’t seen in the city before, and I hope the negotiators can negotiate a successful agreement but I’m concerned that with this mandate they won’t,” said Councillor Janet Davis, who sat in on the private session.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, and councillors Denzil Minnan-Wong, Mike Del Grande, Karen Stintz and John Parker voted in favour of the mandate. Councillor Chin Lee was the lone vote against.


Deputy Mayor Holyday said he does not believe the marching orders given Thursday increase the likelihood of a strike or lockout.


He said Locals 79 and 416 haven’t refused to meet with the conciliator, but accused them of not coming to table with meaningful proposals. “As you know from the past experience their strategy is to play this out to the good weather. Two out of the last three times they did that, and along comes June or end of May and they strike us, and we’re trying to avoid that this time,” he said.

A representative from CUPE was not immediately available for comment, but officials said the city had canceled a bargaining meeting this week. But it responded with fact sheets to City Manager Joseph Pennachetti’s statement this week saying that the City of Toronto has the most restrictive collective bargaining language of any municipality in Canada. Job security provisions require the city to find a permanent employee whose position has been contracted out another within the workforce. A survey of 248 CUPE municipal contracts found that less than 30% had no provisions restricting contracting out the municipality in the collective agreement, according to the union.

The complete article

From the Globe and Mail, January 5, 2012:

Mayor’s bargaining position challenges security of unionized workers

The Ford administration has set its course for labour talks, endorsing a bargaining position that the mayor’s supporters call “100 per cent reasonable” and critics quickly labelled an “extreme” tack that steers the city closer to a winter lockout.

The city’s labour relations committee met in private Thursday to discuss the mandate for its negotiators in talks with unions for more than 30,000 workers whose contracts expired Dec. 31.

Details remain private, but committee chair Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday made it clear the city is taking aim at job security provisions and bumping rights.

The complete article

From The Star, January 4, 2012

City and unions appear headed for a lockout

If a strike or lockout of more than 30,000 city workers is inevitable, the Rob Ford administration wants it to start soon, in the winter, says Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday.

“From the city’s standpoint, a labour disruption is easier to deal with in the winter than the summer,” Holyday said in an interview Tuesday, two days after four city contracts, governing about 32,500 workers, expired


The city asked the province Dec. 14 to appoint a conciliator for talks with the 6,000-member Local 416 — a plea for help but also a necessary precursor to a possible lockout of city staff or strike by them.

A Labour Ministry spokesman said Tuesday a conciliator has been appointed but no meetings are scheduled yet.

Another conciliator is meeting this month with city negotiators and Local 79, representing 23,000 workers, following three meetings in December, said Tim Maguire, the local president who recently replaced Ann Dembinski.

The complete article

From The Star, January 3rd, 2012

Countdown to a labour disruption
  • Provincial conciliators are now involved in talks between the City of Toronto and CUPE locals representing about 30,000 inside and outside workers.
  • If the conciliator finds no progress can be made toward a negotiated settlement for a new contract, he or she informs the office of Ontario Labour Minister Linda Jeffrey.
  • The minister would then generally issue a notice known as a “no board.” Seventeen days after the date on the minister’s notice, the city can legally lock workers out and the union locals can legally strike.
  • Conceivably, a lockout or strike could happen as early as late January. Many city hall observers believe, however, that if city negotiators cannot get the locals to agree to significant concessions, the Ford administration will move to lock out workers around mid-February.
  • The Toronto Public Library Workers Union Local 4948 is just about to start negotiations with the city. However, the local president is worried that the Ford administration intends to lock out her 2,300 members.

The complete article

From The Star, January 3rd, 2012

Key issues in talks between the city and its unions
  • Job security. Mayor Rob Ford’s administration is demanding the unions give up provisions that CUPE members with “permanent” status whose positions are eliminated due to contracting out or technical innovation must be moved elsewhere in the city workforce. Management says the inability to lay off redundant staff stymies attempts to make the city more efficient, including contracting out. Local 416 says the provisions were won through years of hard bargaining and members won’t give it up.
  • Other contract provisions, including control of shift scheduling and “bumping” procedures when a temporary CUPE member is given a layoff notice. Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday says these “restrictive provisions” are costly to taxpayers and must go. Local 416 president Mark Ferguson called Holyday’s remarks “nonsense,” adding many of the provisions are standard in many collective agreements.
  • Wages and benefits. Ford has said the era of above-inflation wage hikes is over. Ferguson said in November the city had served notice it wants to cut the total cash value of workers’ benefits by about 10 per cent.

The complete article

  • From the National Post January 3, 2012:*

*What the #!%*?: Is another city worker strike in the cards for Toronto?*

In this occasional feature, the National Post tells you everything you need to know about a complicated issue. Today, Megan O’Toole looks at Toronto’s looming labour war.

What is the status of labour negotiations?

The contracts of about 22,000 inside workers and 6,000 outside workers, represented by CUPE locals 79 and 416, expired on Dec. 31. As that deadline neared last year, the rhetoric on both sides intensified. Local 416 president Mark Ferguson blasted Mayor Rob Ford’s administration for seeking to eviscerate key collective agreement protections, while local 79 president Ann Dembinski accused the city of “stonewalling” union demands for financial information. The city, meanwhile, accused the inside workers’ union of bargaining in bad faith and requested that a conciliator be appointed by the province to both sets of negotiations. Should the conciliation process lead to an impasse, the two sides could be in a legal strike or lockout position within weeks.

But the contract expired Dec. 31. Why wasn’t this resolved beforehand?

The city sent out a notice to commence bargaining on Oct. 4, but amid growing animosity between the two sides, the process languished. It is not an uncommon scenario for negotiations to extend well past the expiry of a previous contract; most recently, Torontonians will recall the great garbage strike in the summer of 2009, under the leadership of then-mayor David Miller. After a contract expires, union members continue to operate under their old contract until new terms are put in place.


Does this mean we’re doomed for another strike or lockout? Mr. Holyday says the city has no desire to lock out its workers, but he cited a need to get an agreement sooner rather than later, accusing the union of trying to delay negotiations until the summer, when a strike would “do the most damage.” Mr. Ferguson says he has no timeline, but is committed to preserving key aspects of the collective agreement that the city wants to strip away. “We need to bridge that chasm,” Mr. Ferguson said. Left-leaning Councillor Gord Perks (Parkdale-High Park) expressed concern that the “radical conservative attack” on unions would lead to serious service disruption in the coming months. “A winter without proper services is something simply unacceptable to me and my constituents,” Mr. Perks said.

The complete article

From the Globe and Mail, January 3, 2012:

City hall reveals bargaining goals in feud with CUPE workers

Mr. Holyday singled out four specific provisions he would like quashed: the city’s complex “bumping” process, by which laid-off workers can punt workers with less seniority; the need for union consent to change shift schedules; the shift overlaps in some departments; and “running lunches,” which allow workers who eat on the job to go home early.

Speaking three days after contracts with both unions expired, Mr. Holyday, chairman of the city’s employee and labour relations committee, embarked on a media blitz on Tuesday to stake out the city’s position, writing a newspaper op-ed, debating a union chief over the radio and scrumming with reporters at City Hall.

The complete article

From the National Post, December 15, 2011

Toronto on ‘one-way track to a labour disruption’: CUPE

An acrimonious start to contract negotiations between the municipality and the union representing outside city workers intensified on Wednesday, when the city asked the Ontario Ministry of Labour to appoint a conciliation officer. It’s a process that is meant to help an employer and a trade union resolve their differences in reaching a new collective agreement, but is also a necessary precursor to some sort of work stoppage. If still at an impasse, either side can request a “no board report,” and after about 17 days be in a legal position to strike or lockout workers.

“The city is on a one-way track to a labour disruption at this point,” said Mark Ferguson, president of CUPE Local 416, who accused Mayor Rob Ford’s team of inflaming the situation by seeking the help of conciliation. “We believe this has been the administration’s plan all the way along, and quite frankly we’re not going to take their bait.”


The contracts of about 22,000 “inside” city workers, represented by CUPE Local 79, and 6,000 “outside” workers, represented by Local 416, expire on Dec. 31.

Hammering out a new deal got off to a rocky start. In November, Mr. Ferguson denounced the Ford administration for seeking to eviscerate key protections in its collective agreement. Days later, the City of Toronto accused its sister local of “unfair labour practice” and asked the Ontario Labour Relations Board to order it to bargain. Outgoing Local 79 president Ann Dembinski blamed the city’s own “stonewalling” for delays in bargaining. The city has since notified Local 416 that it intends to hire part-time employees in the future, possibly paramedics, sparking another dispute with the union. It contends the municipality wants to replace full-time staff with unskilled part-time workers across all city divisions, which officials flatly deny.

The complete article

From the National Post December 2, 2012:

Councillors lose bid to transfer approval power to council for city worker lockout

A bid to give city council the final say on locking out municipal employees failed to gain enough support at City Hall on Thursday.

Councillors John Filion and Josh Matlow sought to strip the lockout power away from Mayor Rob Ford’s handpicked employee and labour relations committee, as the city approaches what many consider to be an inevitable standoff between unions and the administration. The contracts of about 28,000 city workers expire in the new year.

Mr. Filion and Mr. Matlow want to insert a clause that would require council approval for a lockout and any “material change” to the terms and conditions of an existing contract. Their motion required two- thirds support to be debated, and lost on an 18 to 19 vote. That punts it to the Mayor’s executive committee, which will certainly quash it.

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From the Globe and Mail November 8, 2011:

City, unions preparing for Toronto labour shutdown of up to six months

Barely two weeks into contract negotiations, city hall and its two largest public-sector unions are girding for a prolonged shutdown of municipal services

Sources with knowledge of the preparations have confirmed that the city planning and solid waste departments have met to plan for a January lockout of up to six months while the parks department is training managers to run Zambonis to avoid a prolonged closing of municipal arenas.

The city exchanged a list of demands with CUPE 416 on Oct. 19, launching the negotiation process that union head Mark Ferguson believes will lead to an all-out lockout of unionized city workers.

The city’s 21-page proposal leaves no aspect of the current collective agreement untouched, according to Mr. Ferguson. He revealed that the city’s demands include terminating CUPE’s employment security provisions – disparagingly known as the jobs-for-life clause – as well as amending or deleting facets of the current contract dealing with worker redeployment, layoff and recall rules, job-posting policies and seniority rights.

In addition, the city is asking for a 10-per-cent rollback of employee benefits.

“We are light-years apart,” Mr. Ferguson said. “We came in with a simple three-page set of proposals that were largely geared at protecting what we have. By contrast, the city is looking to either eliminate or amend every facet of the collective agreement.”


While it is virtually unheard of for any level of government in Canada to lock out its employees without first being provoked by some manner of job action, people familiar with both sides of the bargaining table insist it’s a logical outcome this time around. Since amalgamation, public-sector unions have been able to get an upper hand on city negotiators by timing job action for the hot summer months when public outcry over festering garbage piles forces the city’s hand.

To avert the hue and cry, and push through a settlement on its own terms, the city must reach an agreement during the winter. Assuming the unions remain on the job, a lockout is the only means to that end.

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