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Mark Ferguson, president of CUPE Local 416, responds to an announcement by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford of plans to privatize garbage collection at a news conference February 7, 2011. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)
Mark Ferguson, president of CUPE Local 416, responds to an announcement by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford of plans to privatize garbage collection at a news conference February 7, 2011. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

Union bargaining for Toronto workers reports some movement Add to ...

As the clock ticks down toward a possible labour stoppage in Toronto, the city’s second-largest union has proposed a number of concessions in the face of hard-line bargaining from city negotiators.

“There has been some movement over the last couple of days,” said Mark Ferguson, president of CUPE Local 416, representing over 6,000 garbage workers, street cleaners, paramedics and other outside workers.

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Perhaps most promising is a union guarantee that redeploying workers will take no more than six days.

For weeks, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday and city staff involved with negotiations have complained that, due to the collective agreement, the cascading bumping process that takes place when an employee is reassigned takes an average of one year. In one case, reassigning a single city worker took three years. Since 2009, that drawn-out process has cost the city $10-million, according to human resources director Bruce Anderson.

“We have been focused on redeployment as a key issue for the last number of days,” Mr. Ferguson said. “We have made improvements to that system that should decrease the amount of time it takes for an employee to be redeployed by 98 per cent.”

Mr. Ferguson did not detail other concessions, but said the city would respond to his team's proposal by 8 p.m. Tuesday night.

On Monday, Mr. Holyday, chair of the city’s labour relations committee, said that the city would not lockout workers this Sunday, when a provincial deadline passes allowing either side to take legal job action.

In so doing, Mr. Holyday allayed fears that a labour disruption could interrupt operations in arenas, parks and other city facilities this weekend while also expressing optimism for negotiations extending beyond the deadline. The union is reading it as a good sign.

“We find it very helpful the deputy mayor has chosen to extend what we felt was an arbitrary deadline to begin with,” Mr. Ferguson said. “The more time we have to discuss some of the very important issues on the table the better it bodes for a settlement.”

Mr. Holyday’s committee will meet Wednesday afternoon for an update from negotiators.

“They will let the committee know and interested councillors know what’s happening,” Mr. Holyday said on Monday.

The union has expressed reservations that, as of the Sunday deadline, the city could unilaterally impose a new contract as a way of provoking Local 416 workers to walk out.

“That’s up to our negotiators. I don’t know what they would try to do to them at the end,” Mr. Holyday said, “but there won’t be a lockout.”

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