Union leaders stress job insecurity faced by workers.
City workers who provide some of Toronto’s most essential services face so much job insecurity that many are left waiting for a phone call to tell them when they next work, union leaders told the media Wednesday.
Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 79 President Tim Maguire and Matt Alloway, bargaining committee representative for CUPE Local 416, say many of these workers have been employed by the City of Toronto for years. The bargaining process, which has been ongoing since October, could affect rights and benefits for City workers in ongoing negotiations.
While not all city employees face precarious employment, Maguire says the majority of the 20,000 workers he represents—including nurses, childcare workers, court staff, and water quality testers—face unstable work, be it temporary, part-time, or on call.
Nevertheless, Both Maguire and Alloway said repeatedly that neither union has any intent of going on strike, and that talk of labour disruption has come only from the city.
Local 416 will be in a position to strike, if its members vote to do so, on Feb. 19 at 12:01; members of Local 79 will have the same opportunity the next day. That move was instigated by the City, which asked the Ministry of Labour for a “no-board report” on Jan. 29.
At the same time that the unions have the opportunity to strike, the City will be able to legally lock out workers or to impose contract conditions on them. Local 79 asked for a no-board report as a show of solidarity with 416.
When asked about the precariousness many city workers face, Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East), deputy mayor and city council labour relations committee chair, said, “We can’t make everyone a full-time employee.” He pointed to lifeguards and swimming instructors, jobs often done by students during their summer vacation, as examples of city jobs that should remain part-time.
When asked about the no-board report, Minnan-Wong said it was the City’s position that they hadn’t been making “sufficient progress” in negotiations, and that both workers and city residents wanted a resolution to the process.
Maguire and Alloway said their two locals worked on a joint proposal that was presented to the city yesterday. The proposal attempts to deal with the City’s desire to cut costs, and addresses the major issue of benefits, which the City currently pays in full and where it hopes to find financial efficiencies. The City proposed that employees pay a portion of their own medical benefit expenses with a flat fee each year.
The union suggested moving members of 79 and 416 to the same plan, thus achieving savings through economies of scale, as well as buying prescription drugs in bulk through preferred providers. The current proposal doesn’t deal with job insecurity, or flexibility, to use the City’s term; this appears to be a continued sticking point.
The collective agreements for the two union chapters expired on Dec. 31, but representatives from both groups have been negotiating with the City since October in an effort to develop a new pair of agreements.
“The end goal is to assist, to move forward with the City,” Maguire said.