Garbage collection, child care and sexual health clinics services could be affected by union strikes

Published On February 12, 2016 | By HN Staff | News, Politics
If a city workers strike occurs, daycares could be closed and garbage pickup would be suspended. (Morgan Gallagher)

If a city workers strike occurs, daycares could be closed and garbage pickup would be suspended. (Morgan Gallagher)

Clare Jenkins

Child care, community centres and garbage collection east of Yonge street are just some of the essential services that will be put on hold next week if city workers go on strike or are locked out.

The City of Toronto announced its contingency plan in the event of a labour disruption of the Toronto Civic Employee’s Union (TCEU), Local 416 (CUPE) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79.

The approximately 4,200 City of Toronto outside workers will legally strike and the city will be in a legal lockout position as of 12:01 a.m. on Friday Feb. 19. The city’s approximate 2,100 inside workers will strike and the city will be in a legal lockout position at the same time the following day.

In the event of a strike or lock-out, emergency services and essential services like public transit will not be affected but child care, garbage collection in the East-end and sexual health and immunization clinics will be put on hold.

“We have approached this not from the perspective of how people feel. We’ve approached this from the perspective that our services matter,” – Peter Wallace, City Manager

The city has been bargaining with the unions since the fall. Neither local 416 or 79 have spoken about a strike yet.

“We’re hoping to get a deal,” said Toronto Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong at a news release.

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City Manager, Peter Wallace speaking at City Hall (Clare Jenkins)

“There has been no discussion on our side about a lockout but at the end of the day the clock continues to tick. Feb. 19 and 20 are just around the corner so it is incumbent for the city…for us to be ready,” Minnan-Wong said.

“The City of Toronto is committed to, and continues to work very, very hard towards the achievement of a negotiated settlement,” said City Manager Peter Wallace.

Both Wallace and Minnan-Wong stressed the importance of prioritizing health and safety over the convenience of the public.

“We have approached this not from the perspective of how people feel. We’ve approached this from the perspective that our services matter,” Wallace said.

“The needs of the residents of this city are exceedingly important in any of these decisions we make. That is a real priority for us in any actions we are going to be taken at the table,” he said.

Minnan-Wong said the City of Toronto is looking for more flexibility from the unions.

“They’re looking to spend money and we’re looking to save the money. It’s a very difficult time right now. We’re hoping for the best, that we get an agreement, but today we’re telling you that we’ve also got to plan for the worst,” said the deputy mayor.

Indoor and outdoor city worker salaries account for approximately $2.5 billion, a quarter of the city’s $10 billion budget.

The City of Toronto’s costs are going up four per cent per year and Minnan-Wong said they are trying to find a way to balance it.

Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong at City Hall (Clare Jenkins)

Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong at City Hall (Clare Jenkins)

“There has to be some level of recognition on behalf of 416 and 79 that our costs are going up four per cent a year and that we’re trying to find a way to find a level of balance there,” he said.

Lack of reliable hours, little notice in shift scheduling, and little to no benefits are issues that plague many part-time city workers in Toronto according to a press release.

Tim Maguire, president of Local 79 said the city “would have you believe its jobs are secure, stable jobs with great benefits.”

Minnan-Wong said the city is doing what it can in order to avoid a labour disruption reach an agreement with both unions.

He also said the requests of the unions do not reflect any level of sensitivity to the needs of the residents of the city or the needs of the City of Toronto to meet its financial obligations.

Ada Jaworska has been a part-time public service assistant with the Toronto Public library for 10 years. “I’ve been told I might have to work 12 years before I have a chance at getting a full-time job,” she said in a press release.

“I miss a shift and I can’t pay the bills,” she said.

The City of Toronto put forward a full proposal detailing a salary increase and other changes last week but the unions came back with changes Minnan-Wong said were a “step back.”

“We thought it was a fair proposal,” Minnan-Wong said.

If the city and the unions don’t reach an agreement before February 19th this is what Toronto residents should look out for next week:

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