Toronto outside workers extend strike deadline

The Canadian Press
Shawn Jeffords

TORONTO–The City of Toronto and the union representing thousands of its workers agreed yesterday to extend a strike deadline by 48 hours, with both sides expressing optimism that a deal can be reached to avoid a labour disruption.
CUPE 416 president Eddie Mariconda said the parties were making positive strides at the bargaining table but needed more time to reach an agreement. The new strike deadline is now Saturday at 12:01 a.m.
“If you’re making some progress there is no need to impose that deadline,” Mariconda said. “Both parties felt that an extension was the best thing to do for the citizens of Toronto.”
About 5,000 city employees–often referred to as “outside workers”–have been without a contract since Dec. 31. The union said provisions around job security for senior employees have been the primary sticking point during contract talks, which included mediated negotiations over the weekend.
The city has said garbage collection, recreation centres and city-owned event spaces would all be affected if a strike does take place.
Mariconda said the union remains concerned that the city is attempting to weave clauses into the agreement that would open the door to privatization. In spite of those efforts, a deal can be reached if everyone remains reasonable, he said.
“We are not going anywhere until we hammer out a deal,” he said.
Toronto Mayor John Tory also expressed optimism about the extension, calling it a “positive development.”
“My focus is on getting a fair and timely agreement that is good for our workers and good for our residents at the same time,” he said.
Tory said he is not seeking to privatize any services or eliminate jobs through contracting out.
“I want to run an efficient government here … but in the last five years I have been mayor, not one (CUPE 416) job has been lost to any kind of measure like that,” he said.
Meanwhile, the city said Wednesday that a strike or lockout date has been set with CUPE Local 79–the union that represents most of its 22,000 indoor workers–for March 14, at 12:01 a.m.
“The city will continue to meet with the union to try and achieve negotiated collective agreements,” the city said in the statement.