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Pool noodles float in a swimming pool in Toronto. Lifeguards are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 79, which is renegotiating its contract with the City of Toronto. (Michelle Siu/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Pool noodles float in a swimming pool in Toronto. Lifeguards are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 79, which is renegotiating its contract with the City of Toronto. (Michelle Siu/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Deadline extended as contract talks with Toronto’s inside workers continue Add to ...

The leader of Toronto’s inside workers union, which acts for more than 20,000 city staff, said Saturday that a strike-or-lockout deadline had been pushed back a second time, to 12:01 a.m. on Monday, as talks with the city on a new contract continue.

‎Tim Maguire, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 79 – whose members include the city’s childcare workers, lifeguards and long-term-care attendants – said talks could continue past even this new deadline.

Pointing to the union’s decision last week to drop demands for benefits enhancements the city said would cost $9.5-million, he said he hoped the city would also compromise at the ‎bargaining table.

“We moved,” Mr. Maguire told reporters Saturday. “We would like the city to meet us halfway.”

‎Mr. Maguire had said late Friday that the deadline, which originally put the union and the city in a legal strike-lockout position on Saturday morning at 12:01 a.m., had been pushed ahead by 24 hours to Sunday at 12:01 a.m. He said Saturday the two sides had agreed to push the deadline ahead by yet another 24 hours, and Mr. Maguire said talks could continue past this new deadline as well.

The talks with Local 79 continue despite news on Friday that CUPE Local 416, which represents the city’s outside workers ‎including its garbage collectors, had reached a tentative settlement with the city. The two unions typically work together when bargaining with the city.

On Friday, Mr. Maguire warned that his union and the city were still “far apart” on key issues.

“We’re still far apart on the city recognizing that it has to reverse the increasing instability for front-line workers and the services they provide,” Mr. Maguire told reporters at a downtown hotel Friday afternoon.

While the city has been seeking greater “flexibility” from its work force, Mr. Maguire has repeatedly said his union was seeking greater “stability” for its many part-time and mostly female workers, including guaranteed minimum hours and more predictable scheduling.

He also suggested that city demands for concessions on the benefits it offers its work force would amount to “hundreds if not thousands of dollars” out of pocket for his workers, and could not be accepted by the union. And he said wage increases remained an issue.

A work stoppage would not only cancel recreation programs across the city, but also would leave thousands of parents scrambling for child-care arrangements.

At a press conference on Friday, Mayor John Tory said the tentative deal with Local 416 was “responsible” and fell within the mandate that City Council had given its labour relations committee. The mayor said he remained hopeful that a similar “responsible” deal could be reached soon‎ with Local 79, although he said “heavy lifting” remained in those negotiations.

“I hope that they understand that it has to be a deal that is fair to the members of Local 79, but also fair to the taxpayers and the citizens of Toronto,” he said, adding that he had a “positive outlook” about the talks.

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