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City Presents CUPE With “Final Offer,” Workers To Vote Wednesday

In an unprecedented move, and after failing to reach an agreement on remaining issues, union presenting offer to its members without recommendation.

“We were able to achieve settlement on many issues. We were not able to achieve agreement on a few issues.”

Unsettling words a few minutes past midnight from Tim Maguire, head of CUPE 79. That’s the bargaining unit that represents the City’s approximately 23,000 so-called inside workers, who do everything from staff daycare services to work in community centres to manage City Hall.

Maguire went on to say that after negotiating through much of the weekend and well past the Saturday 12:01 a.m. strike/lockout deadline, the City decided to bring talks to a halt and present the union with a final offer. CUPE negotiators have decided to present that offer to their members for a vote without recommendation—that is, without suggesting they either accept or reject it. The vote will take place on Wednesday, from 7 a.m.–8 p.m., at three locations (yet to be announced).

If the deal is not ratified, Maguire warned, the City could unilaterally change the terms and conditions under which workers continue in their jobs (technically, the City could have done this as of that Saturday midnight mark), and that might lead CUPE to decide it has no choice but to strike. He hopes, however, that if workers were to reject the offer, the City would return to the bargaining table—implying that in that eventuality, workers might not automatically begin a strike, but wait to see what the City does next. Maguire told reporters that this situation—presenting a proposal without recommendation—is unprecedented in the history of CUPE 79.

The members of CUPE 79 will continue to show up for work, Maguire said, at least until the results of Wednesday’s vote are known.

A few minutes after Maguire finished his remarks, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday spoke to reporters. “We have great news for the City of Toronto!” he said—a marked difference in tone. Though details were sparse, Holyday said that the deal they had tabled called for a four-year term, and that “wages and employment security are exactly the same as the ones accepted by [outside workers represented by] CUPE 416.” This was a particular sticking point for CUPE 79 negotiators, who point out that because CUPE 79 is a younger local and its members have been at the City for shorter periods of time, they need different job-security provisions. (Specifically, they say that the 15-year job security threshold agreed to by CUPE 416 covers about three-quarters of their workers; that same threshold would cover only half of CUPE 79′s workers, leaving many more of them vulnerable to layoffs.) Holyday, speaking briskly as though the matter was now settled, added: “I am confident that the membership with ratify this deal.”

Whether workers feel the same is not at all clear.

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