Contract approved after only a short debate this morning.
At a special meeting this morning, city council ratified a new collective agreement with the City’s outdoor workers, in what some councillors are describing as a victory for Mayor Rob Ford.
Every councillor who voted to ratify the agreement with CUPE Local 416 (a few councillors were absent) voted in favour, including some of Ford’s most vehement critics. The vote was the last procedural hurdle for a contract that has been the source of much behind-the-scenes acrimony between union leaders and City negotiators since the previous contract expired at the end of 2011.
The new contract significantly curbs job security: permanent employees who have served for fewer than 15 years are no longer protected from lay-offs. It also calls for paramedics to be designated “essential service” workers, which will strip them of their right to strike; they are reportedly displeased with some of the concessions union negotiators made on their behalf.
At a press conference after the vote, Mayor Ford summed things up in grandiose terms. “This is the greatest day in this council’s history,” he said. “We’re not going to have a strike for the next four years, and we’re going to save the taxpayers $100 million.” He said City staff believe the savings will come both from productivity gains and from reduced retirement liabilities.
(It’s premature to promise that “we’re not going to have a strike for the four years.” Negotiations with one of the City’s largest bargaining units—CUPE Local 79, which represents indoor workers—are ongoing, as are talks with library workers, another big unit. There’s no evidence of an impending strike yet, but in theory that could change.)
The mayor also pointed out that the contract, with its four-year term, will carry the City through the 2015 Pan American Games without a labour disruption.
Not all councillors were as euphoric as Ford, but all seemed generally pleased with the result. “What this speaks to, to me, is the importance of the collective bargaining process,” said Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s). “Today was the culmination of that, and that’s why you had broad support.”
The full details of the agreement are now online.