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The city has no intention of backing off its request that Queen's Park ban TTC strikes, despite a new letter from the province asking the mayor if he's wavering.

Labour Minister Charles Sousa sent Rob Ford's office a letter Thursday to see if the city's position had changed after union leaders promised not to strike during the upcoming round of talks for a new collective agreement.

"Despite the unions' continuing offer, is the City still requesting that the government introduce legislation that, if passed, would prohibit work stoppages at the TTC, send all outstanding disputes to binding interest arbitration and mandate a review after five years?" the letter reads.

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Mr. Sousa says in his letter that the provincial government is giving "very serious consideration" to city council's request to introduce legislation declaring the TTC an essential service.

The letter also notes that officials from the city, the TTC and the three labour unions met with a Labour Ministry mediator on Feb. 10 to determine if they could negotiate a solution. While the three unions agreed there would be no work stoppages during the upcoming round of bargaining, the letter says, the parties have not reached an agreement.

TTC Chair Karen Stintz confirmed there's still no deal. And there won't be one, she added.

"The city's position is unchanged," she said. "City council has requested essential service legislation to be enacted by the province. The union asked for a voluntary agreement, and we had discussions with the union on a voluntary agreement and what that might look like. We weren't able to reach an agreement."

The labour leader representing most TTC staff accused the city and the mayor of playing politics with workers' rights.

"They [the provincial Liberals]are concerned politically that this could be perceived by labour as taking a shot at us. That's exactly what Rob Ford wants is the province to be in a difficult position," said Bob Kinnear, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents approximately 10,000 TTC workers.

ATU 113's contract runs out March 31.

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The city wants the province to designate the TTC an essential service before the deal expires. The union, meantime, hopes its no-strike gambit might buy members more time to fight potential legislation.



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