Though neither union leaders nor City staff say they want to disrupt labour, negotiations are still ongoing.
Leaders of CUPE Locals 79 and 416, who have been negotiating with the City for new collective agreements since October, each presented a “framework of settlement” on Wednesday morning in hopes of reaching agreements without any labour disruptions.
Local 416, which represents about 6,000 outdoor workers, will be in a strike or lockout position at 12:01 a.m. Friday, and Local 79 (representing around 20,000 indoor workers) will be in the same position 24 hours later.
Local 79 President Tim Maguire described the frameworks as sets of several proposals that leave room for continued negotiation with the City while laying out the priorities of the union. Those priorities include job stability and protection from precarious employment; a wage increase they described as “in line with other settlements between the city and its workers”; health and safety protections; gender equity in aquatic staff uniforms; and a firm refusal to concessions.
One apparent sticking point between the City and the unions has been the former’s demand of concessions on both health benefits and language around moving or dismissing workers. The City currently pays benefits in full and is asking workers to pay a flat rate commensurate with income. During the last round of collective bargaining for the two locals, in 2012, Maguire says the City took “an aggressive approach to bargaining” and extracted concessions from them, which they claim City officials are now trying to repeat.
Last week the locals presented a joint proposal suggesting, among other things, that the City move all of the workers in both 79 and 416 onto the same health plan, which they say would reduce administrative costs. There are currently several different health plans for the two locals. The City rejected the joint proposal, claiming it would actually increase costs for the city by $9.5 million. When asked if that number is valid, Local 416 bargaining team member Matt Alloway said he “can’t validate that number” because the City hasn’t made clear the data on which it’s based.
Both union locals have expressed a firm commitment to bargaining rather than going on strike. What is occasionally being termed a “deadline” is in fact merely the earliest possible time either side could withhold labour, not a time at which such action is required.
Minnan-Wong said Wednesday that neither the city nor the unions want a labour disruption. “I’d like to be able to announce on Friday that we have an agreement, and we’re going to bargain hard until that time,” he told media.
The City has also publicized its contingency plan for providing reduced services in the wake of a strike or lockout.
“It shows, from our perspective, that they’ve been concentrating on that, on the issue of whether there’s going to be a labour disruption or not, and not focusing on bargaining as much as they could be,” Maguire said, while also acknowledging that preparations for work stoppages are inevitable on both sides of the table.
“We’re looking to the city to work with us to find solutions,” Maguire said Wednesday. Whether that will happen, or if the City will move ahead and lock out workers or impose contract conditions on them, remains to be seen.