Holdout Toronto union to vote on contract offer
Published Wednesday, July 29, 2009 11:58PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 11:27PM EDT
Toronto residents hoping to see their garbage collection service resumed are slightly closer to seeing that happen -- the striking outside workers will hold a contract ratification vote on Thursday.
"We've been negotiating pretty hard for over seven months now. And from my perspective, it has come to an end," Mark Ferguson, president of CUPE Local 416, which represents about 6,200 outside workers, told CTV Toronto shortly before midnight on Wednesday.
The local had planned to hold a vote Wednesday, but their leadership told them to stay home instead. Ferguson said a back-to-work protocol had to be completed before any ratification vote.
By late Wednesday, those roadblocks had been cleared.
"We are in a position where we are prepared to take a memorandum of understanding and a back-to-work protocol back to our membership for ratification tomorrow," Ferguson said.
Voting will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Ontario Federation of Labour building, with an announcement expected at 7:30 p.m.
He noted that on Monday, he had said there was a framework for a deal had been reached, but a number of issues remained outstanding, including a back-to-work protocol.
In a news release issued late Wednesday, Ferguson said the majority of post-strike clean-up work had been secured for his members.
Meanwhile, Local 79 members carried out their own vote and members chose to ratify their contract with the City of Toronto.
However, they didn't appear to be in a hurry to return to work.
Late Wednesday, Miller's office released a statement saying: "CUPE Local 79 has placed a notice on their website informing Local 79 members to 'report to their picket site until further notice'.
"This is unacceptable as CUPE Local 79 has signed the new collective agreements yet refused to give their workers permission to come to work by ending the strike."
Those Local 79 members who do wish to return to work on Thursday will have to fill out a form, it said.
As of late Wednesday, that notice remained. However, it likely predated the development with Local 416.
On Friday at 9:30 a.m., city council will meet to hold a ratification vote on the deal.
Ferguson said if his members ratify the contract offer, they will report for work on Friday morning before council conducts its ratification vote.
What's in the agreement?
The 38-day-old strike began on June 22.
The details of the deal between the city and the union have not yet been fully released.
Miller said the deal gives an increase in compensation of 5.6 per cent over three years, with wage hikes of 1.75 per cent in the first year, two per cent in the second year and 2.25 per cent in the third year.
Miller said the sick bank, which many see as the key issue of the strike, has been eliminated for future workers. New hires will not be able to bank any of their 18 unused sick days and collect a payout of up to six month's wages upon retirement.
Existing employees with 10 years service or more will be able to either keep the current plan or take a buyout and move to a short-term disability plan. Those with fewer than 10 yeas of service will get 18 sick days per year but won't be able to continue banking them. There will be an optional buyout.
This is similar to how Etobicoke and Mississauga eliminated their sick-bank plans, Miller said, adding, "It is the fair way to do it in the city of Toronto."
Had the dispute gone to an arbitrator as a result of back-to-work legislation, it would have been impossible to make changes to the sick-days plan as it had been in the collective agreement for decades, he said.
By constraining growth in benefit costs, "we've achieved our bargaining goals," Miller said.
The unions had said up to two weeks ago that they wanted parity with earlier contracts and wouldn't discuss the sick bank, he said. Miller also suggested going public with a contract offer on July 10 helped break the logjam.
While Miller touted the deal, some councillors panned the agreement.
"You have to wonder who's in charge, the people or the unions," said Coun. John Parker. "And you also have to wonder what were the last five weeks all about."
Coun. Karen Stintz told reporters about Miller's deal: "He told us he was going to get rid of the liability. He didn't. He told us he was going to get rid of the sick bank. He didn't. He told us he was going to have wage increases that were in line with inflation. They're not. So all of the expectations that we had out of this labour negotiation have not been met."
In addition, non-unionized workers at city hall are steamed because they received wage increases of zero and one per cent -- and had their sick bank taken away two years ago. Delaney said they are talking about some type of response, possibly a work-to-rule campaign.
With reports from CTV Toronto's Galit Solomon, Austin Delaney, Tom Hayes and John Musselman