Outside Workers Reach Tentative Deal with the City

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Outside Workers Reach Tentative Deal with the City

No details yet, but a "working framework" has been agreed upon.

CUPE 415 president Mark Ferguson speaking to the press on Friday. Photo by Hamutal Dotan/Torontoist.

In a press conference at 8:30 this morning, CUPE 416 president Mark Ferguson announced that negotiators has reached a tentative deal with the City of Toronto. CUPE 416, which represents approximately 6,000 outside workers, had been in the midst of what everyone described as an incredibly contentious bargaining process—a view Ferguson reinforced today when he called the course of discussions with the City “one of the toughest labour negotiations in Canadian history.” No details of the deal were released this morning but Ferguson called the agreement thus far a “working framework” and added that the union had made “numerous concessions” in order to get to an agreement.

Negotiators, who worked through the night, will be taking a break for a short while; they will reconvene tomorrow at 9 a.m. to finalize the details of the agreement, at which point it will be presented to the members of CUPE 416 for a ratification vote, and if approved go on to city council for a vote there as well. The most contentious matter in negotiations has always been job security provisions—provisions the City said it would unilaterally strip from workers starting at 12:01 a.m. if no deal was reached—which prevent the City from implementing any sweeping moves to privatize a significant portion of the government’s workforce. By contrast, pay rates were not a sticking point, with the union offering a three-year pay freeze and the City offering increases (lump sum payments of 1.25 per cent, 1.5 per cent, and 1.75 per cent in the first three years, and a base pay increase of 1.75 per cent in the fourth). From the beginning, both sides have been saying that this negotiation was so fraught because it was about the future of organized labour’s role in government as such—and when the details of today’s deal are released, all eyes will immediately turn to that. “There is no doubt that our members are making sacrifices,” Ferguson said today. Governments, workers, and negotiators across the country are now wondering whether those sacrifices involve ceding substantial ground on the question of job security.

“I am very, very happy,” said Mayor Rob Ford, speaking to press outside City Hall at 9:30 a.m. about the deal. Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke North) released a statement which summarized: “I’m pleased that we have been able to reach an agreement that is fair for the employees and reasonable and affordable for the taxpayers of Toronto.” “We worked well with the union team,” Ford said, after he expressed confidence that both sides would ratify the framework that had been agreed on overnight. He carefully avoided any divisive or inflammatory rhetoric, answering every question put to him by the media about who had sacrificed what with thanks to the union and the negotiators for working well together. Added Holyday: “it could only be solved at the table, and that’s what happened.”

Still outstanding: a deal with the City’s more than 23,000 inside workers, represented by CUPE 79, since contracts with both bargaining units expired on December 31, 2011. Today the City said that bargaining with CUPE 79 continues; the working framework with CUPE 79 is widely expected to set the stage for talks there.

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