Toronto CUPE workers approve 4-year deal

By ,City Hall Bureau Chief        http://www.torontosun.com/

First posted: Monday, February 13, 2012 02:33 PM EST | Updated: Monday, February 13, 2012 10:56 PM EST

TORONTO – CUPE Local 416 workers approved a four-year deal with Mayor Rob Ford’s City Hall Monday.

Just after 10 p.m., Local 416 president Mark Ferguson announced the deal had been ratified by a “large majority” of his members.

The union refused to release the breakdown of the votes for and against the contract but did say around 3,400 ballots were cast.

City council votes on the contract Wednesday, the last step in inking the deal that gives employees around 6% in wage improvements over the life of the agreement and avoids a much anticipated winter labour disruption.

“The City came to the bargaining table with a long list of demands for concessions and clawbacks, in the hopes of provoking our members into a negative reaction. Our members refused to take their bait and when the employer finally sat down and negotiated, we successfully beat back most of what the City threw at us,” Ferguson stated in a press release Monday.

Ford called Monday’s successful ratification vote “fantastic.”

“It’s a big win for the union and a big win for the taxpayers,” Ford told QMI Agency. “(We) keep the city moving like everybody wanted.”

As for the other unions the city is still bargaining with, Ford encouraged them to make a deal.

“Follow Ferguson’s lead, I think he did a good job,” Ford said.

“Both sides had to give and take a bit, and that’s what we did. At the end of the day, it is a huge win for the taxpayer and the union.”

The contract would see workers get no pay increase in 2012, a 1.5% one-time lump sum increase in 2013 along with a 0.5% base salary increase. In 2014, employees would get a 1.75% wage hike followed by a 2.25% hike in the last year of the contract.

City negotiators did gain some ground on the “jobs for life” clause in the contract.

While the previous contract stated no permanent employee would lose their job as a result of contracting out, the new contract states only employees with 15 years of seniority would be protecting from contracting out.

Paramedics would be considered an essential service under the new deal. The city is now able to hire part-time paramedics as long as the number doesn’t exceed a ratio of one part-time paramedic for every five full-time paramedics.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, chairman of the city’s employee and labour relations committee, said the contract is a “win all the way around.”

“They still have one of the best contracts in Canada and we have some of the management rights back that we need to be more efficient and effective,” Holyday said.

“I also hope that this four-year contract will give us the opportunity to build on improving labour relations with our workers.”

Holyday said the agreement wouldn’t have happened “without a strong mayor,” like Ford.

Looking ahead to council’s vote Wednesday, Holyday said he would be shocked if councillors tried to derail the deal.

“It certainly would be against the best interests of the workers and the taxpayers if they did,” he said.

E-mail: don.peat@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @reporterdonpeat

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