McGuinty not prepared to order T.O. workers back
Published Wednesday, July 8, 2009 7:46PM EDT
Premier Dalton McGuinty again indicated he won't be bringing in back-to-work legislation to end either the Windsor or Toronto civic strikes unless health concerns force action.
McGuinty was visiting Windsor on Wednesday, a city that has endured a civic strike that has lasted 85 days and counting.
In 2002, McGuinty had pushed for legislation to end the Toronto civic strike. At that time, he was the opposition leader.
"There's the poetry of opposition and the prose of government," McGuinty said. "I was giving expression to the public desire and mood of the day. Today, there is a greater patience, there's a greater sense of acceptance and a greater determination to allow the process to unfold."
CTV Toronto's Paul Bliss said there's been little pressure so far from the opposition Progressive Conservatives or NDP to force the government to act on the strikes.
In Toronto, members of city council's labour relations committee held a special meeting on Wednesday afternoon. The news media were asked to leave the closed-door meeting -- even to get off the same floor.
Councillors indicated that this strike could continue on for some time.
"We are so far apart from what (the unions) want, that it's going to be a long, hot summer. Because I just don't see a settlement in the near term," said Coun. Case Ootes, one of the right-leaning councillors.
Before the meeting, Mayor David Miller said that talks between the city and its striking municipal workers are going "slow" -- a subtle change from Tuesday, where city manager Joe Pennachetti told a briefing that progress was being made.
Miller did say he's committed to resolving the issue at the bargaining table rather than solving the problem with back-to-work legislation.
Ann Dembinski -- president of CUPE Local 79, which represents about 18,000 inside workers -- told reporters that "we're miles apart."
One of the key issues is the city wants to end the practice of allowing union workers, who get up to 18 sick days per year, to bank the unused ones and collect up to six month's pay on retirement.
Dembinski said the union is standing firm on that issue.
"I think the mayor needs to take the concessions off. We went on strike over this issue," she said.
"The city is not in a position (to agree) to an agreement that is unaffordable," Miller told reporters outside city hall. "We're looking for a compromise. We're working at the table and we're not leaving the table and our goal is to reach a collective agreement at the table because that's what works best." he said.
Coun. Rob Ford said the city needs back-to-work legislation. "Miller's not doing anything -- he's going and hiding somewhere," he told reporters.
If the strike continues, the city is prepared to open an additional 200 temporary dump sites though officials have not released where they would be located.
CUPE Local 416, which represents about 6,200 outside workers, and Local 79 walked off the job on June 22.
The strike has affected garbage pickup, summer camp, daycare, licensing and a host of other municipal services.
Single mother Jane Hampel's son Jacob would normally go to a city daycare, but that option is denied her. Despite that, the city has cashed her $793 cheque for daycare fees.
"It bothers me big time. I'm paying for fees, I'm on a strict budget, I'm living paycheque to paycheque, and I can't afford to let someone else watch my son," she said.
Right now, Jacob stays with relatives in Peterborough during the week and returns home on weekends.
The city said she'll get the money back, but Hampel said that's not the point.
With reports from CTV Toronto's Austin Delaney and Paul Bliss, and files from The Canadian Press