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Province Grants “No Board” Report; Clock Started on Likely Labour Dispute

Labour disruption possible as of February 5.

It’s official: the countdown clock on a lockout or City workers strike is ticking. Today the Ontario Labour Board granted the City’s request and issued what’s called a “no board” report—a confirmation that negotiations have broken down and that the province will not be appointing a conciliation board to try to resolve contract debates. Specifically, this is with respect to the City’s negotiations with CUPE 416, which represents approximately 6,000 outside workers—paramedics and staff who handle things such as parks maintenance and road work. In 17 days both the City and the unions will be in a legal position to take further action, the City by locking workers out and workers by going on strike. That puts the first day of a potential labour disruption at February 5. (Talks are continuing with inside workers, represented by CUPE 79, though observers expect that a labour dispute will eventually encompass both CUPE locals.)

At the beginning of this week, in an attempt to demonstrate that it was willing to make significant concessions in contract talks, CUPE 416 president Mark Ferguson announced that workers would agree to a three-year wage freeze. The City rejected that offer, maintaining that job security provisions unduly limit the government’s ability to provide services efficiently (because they curtail their capacity to outsource work to private contractors). Those job security provisions are the City’s main target in negotiations.

In a news release issued a few minutes ago, the City tried to reassure residents that the effects of any disruption would be mitigated:

“We will have contingency plans in place to address key City services in the event of a disruption,” said Toronto City Manager Joe Pennachetti. “It’s important to note, however, we are still at the table with Local 416 and we are working hard to reach a negotiated settlement. Ultimately, we want an agreement that will allow us to improve City services for residents and businesses. We are willing to conduct meaningful negotiations 24/7 to reach an agreement.”

The City has been bargaining with Local 416 since October and remains committed to negotiating a new collective agreement that is fair, reasonable and affordable while addressing the restrictive terms and conditions of the current agreement.

In the event of a labour disruption with Local 416, which represents 6,000 “outside workers”, the City of Toronto will implement its contingency plan to address the operation of key City services that will be affected. The plan will be broadly communicated to the public as necessary. The TTC, Police and Fire Services and the City’s Long-Term Care Homes and Services, Toronto Public Library and Toronto Community Housing properties would not be affected. In addition, the City and unions have agreements for maintaining essential Emergency Medical Services (Ambulance).

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