Split decision in contract vote by Toronto’s inside workers

 

CUPE Local 79 union president Tim Maguire stands in front of bargaining line on March 26, 2012. - CUPE Local 79 union president Tim Maguire stands in front of bargaining line on March 26, 2012. | Michelle Siu/ The Globe and Mail

oliver moore AND adrian morrow
Globe and Mail Update
Published Thursday, Mar. 29, 2012 2:35AM EDT
Last updated Thursday, Mar. 29, 2012 8:54AM EDT

    Two units of CUPE Local 79, the union that represents Toronto’s inside workers, have voted to accept the city’s final contract offer, while two others – the long-term care unit and part-time recreation workers – have rejected the contract.

    While no immediate action by the city or union is expected, the two sides are in a legal strike-lockout position.

    The results of Wednesday’s vote by the 23,000 members of the union were announced just before 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning. The offer was accepted by two of the union’s full-time and part-time units.

    “Members cast their votes with eyes wide open,” local president Tim Maguire said in a statement. “Some of them decided to live with this offer, but for some the cost was too great.”

    Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, the mayor’s point man on the labour file, said the city would be meeting this morning to consider its next move, noting that possibilities include imposing the contract, returning to the table and going to arbitration.

    “The first thing we will do is try to figure out what they’re concerned about [with the rejected deal],” he said by phone said early Thursday.

    Mr. Maguire said that arbitration would be next for the long-term care unit – considered an essential service – and he called for the city to re-start talks about the part-time recreation workers. He warned that imposing a contract could lead to a strike.

    “We have a mandate that we have from our members to consider strike action if needed, but we think the city should think very carefully about going down that road,” he told the CBC’s Metro Morning. “It’s a real possibility that the city could impose terms and conditions. It’s a real possibility that the city could cause this.”

    The union leader had said previously that it was unlikely any job action would take place before Friday at the earliest and stressed the union would rather head back to the bargaining table.

    Mr. Holyday said the city would probably have an update about its next moves by lunchtime.

    On Wednesday, Mr. Maguire had lashed out at the Ford administration in his harshest language yet, accusing the city of threatening to impose a new contract or “worse” as early as Thursday.

    “This city has now indicated that if these contracts are not ratified tonight, tomorrow morning they will impose contracts, impose these terms or impose worse,” he told a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “That means [there is] the potential of this city, this administration, denying our members basic and fundamental employment rights.”

    But Mr. Holyday swiftly denied that, saying city negotiators have not settled on a next move if any of CUPE Local 79’s four bargaining units rejects the offer.

    “Nothing is pre-determined,” Mr. Holyday said. “They [union leaders] said they’d be neutral. I guess it’s questionable whether they have been … I think they’ve tried to play both sides of the street.”

    The union announced early Monday morning that they would put the city’s final offer to a vote without recommendation, leaving members to judge the merits of a four-year contract that grants them a six-per-cent wage increase and strips job security from those with fewer than 15 years experience.

    The inside workers staff vital city services such as daycares, community centres, swimming pools and municipal offices.

    Mr. Holyday had predicted the contract would be accepted and accused Local 79’s leadership of playing politics in a bid to escape the backlash the greeted Mark Ferguson, the president of the outside workers’ union, after he accepted concessions in February.

    Disgruntled paramedics complained Mr. Ferguson betrayed them, prompting the Local 416 leader to announce he was quitting and storm out of a meeting. He released a statement March 1 saying he was taking time with his family to consider his professional future. He hasn’t responded to interview requests since.

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