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A file photo shows striking civic workers picketing outside Toronto City Hall in June 2009. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
A file photo shows striking civic workers picketing outside Toronto City Hall in June 2009. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

City of Toronto document outlines demands it seeks from unions Add to ...

Demands made by the city to its 8,000 outside workers run the gamut from an elimination of premium night-shift pay to the termination of some job-security clauses, according to a copy of a 21-page bargaining proposal obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Spanning more than 40 individual concessions, the document amounts to a fundamental overhaul of the municipality’s relationship with public-sector unions, fanning concerns that the city is in store for a prolonged work stoppage.

While stopping short of offering a no-strike pledge, union president Mark Ferguson vowed to work with hockey leagues and neighbourhood groups to avoid service disruptions at arenas and community centres in the event of a strike or lockout – a lesson learned from the 2009 strike that poisoned public opinion toward the city’s public-sector unions.

“If there is a labour disruption, it will be a labour disruption prompted by the mayor and his administration,” he said.

Mayor Rob Ford responded Wednesday to the allegations that he was seeking a lockout by accusing the union of trying to bargain in public, saying for his part he is hoping to sign a deal quickly.

“I have never talked about a lockout. My team has never talked about a lockout. The only people who are talking about a lockout are the union leadership,” he told reporters. ”I want to get a deal signed as soon as possible.”

Virtually all 48 articles in the current collective agreement are being targeted. The most contentious demands come under Article 28, covering “Employment Security and Redeployment,” which guarantees that any permanent employee who loses a job due to contracting out, technological change or deletion of position will be redeployed somewhere else in the bureaucracy.

The city proposal does not recommend an outright termination of Article 28. But it does recommend eliminating a letter of agreement that requires the city to notify the union three months before contracting out any services. The city also wants to eliminate a letter that prevents the city from signing private-sector contracts that would result in job losses for permanent members of Local 416.

Other demands include the following:

  • abolish $1-an-hour premium pay for night, afternoon and weekend shift work;
  • end a joint union/management health-and-safety forum;
  • reduce a $750 tool allowance;
  • cut leaves of absence for union work;
  • terminate a joint union/management committee aimed at creating a “clean and beautiful City;”
  • eliminate counselling benefits;
  • remove the word ‘handicap’ from anti-discrimination clauses;
  • trim minimum “standby” pay from three hours to one hour;
  • delete rules concerning mandatory posting of vacant positions.

The union swapped proposals with the city on Oct. 19. “It would put more control in the hands of management so we can achieve better efficiencies and lower costs for taxpayers,” said Doug Holyday, chair of the Employee and Labour Relations Committee. “There are millions on the table here. We can save a lot of money by being more efficient with staff.”

From restaurant owners to amateur hockey players, apprehensive Torontonians are bracing for a potentially long winter shutdown of civic services.

The city’s contracts with its two largest unions, Local 416 and Local 79, expire Jan. 1. Labour action could take place by Jan. 19.

“Every time there is a labour disruption in the public sector, our members are very, very concerned,” Plamen Petkov, director of provincial affairs for the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said in an interview.

The group that lobbies on behalf of Toronto’s estimated 3,000 restaurants is also worried that a labour dispute would further hit an industry already hobbled by the weak economy.

“It’s a huge spectre on many fronts, from people not getting permits for expansion or for building new restaurants, to garbage collection,” said Garth Whyte, the president and CEO of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

Community organizations that rely on city facilities are now scrambling to prepare contingency plans. The Greater Toronto Hockey League is working on a plan that would minimize disruptions to its 540 minor-hockey-league teams.

“It’s a concern,” said Scott Oakman, executive director of the league, which relies on the city for 30 per cent of its ice time. “In case of some labour stoppage, we would have to make some alterations to the length of the season or the playoffs, but we haven’t finalized it yet. It’s not like we’ll run unaffected.”

League officials have been speaking with the city about plans for arenas but have been given no assurances they’ll remain open in the event of a work stoppage.

“They are being pretty tight-lipped on the likelihood of things happening and the likelihood of what might be available to us,” said Mr. Oakman. “I’ve been here 14 years and we haven’t been impacted by any job action. I’d like to keep that streak alive.”

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