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The Globe and Mail

Mayor's bargaining position challenges security of unionized workers

Critics are calling Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's bargaining position in contract talks “extreme.”

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The Ford administration has set its course for labour talks, endorsing a bargaining position that the mayor's supporters call "100 per cent reasonable" and critics quickly labelled an "extreme" tack that steers the city closer to a winter lockout.

The city's labour relations committee met in private Thursday to discuss the mandate for its negotiators in talks with unions for more than 30,000 workers whose contracts expired Dec. 31.

Details remain private, but committee chair Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday made it clear the city is taking aim at job security provisions and bumping rights.

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"I think that the action that the committee has taken is 100 per cent responsible," he said. "There is a point where job security becomes too strenuous and too expensive a matter."

Councillor Shelley Carroll, a critic of the mayor, also sat in on the meeting. "What they are going to put on the table is extreme," she said. "What we are dealing with here is an extremist, radical conservative agenda."

The unions were not available for comment, but in a statement took issue with claims by Mr. Holyday and the city manager that Toronto's agreements are the most restrictive in the country, noting about one-third of municipal contracts include restrictions on layoffs as a result of contracting out.

While Mr. Holyday accused unions of failing to come to the table with real proposals, a labour spokesman noted that the city was a no-show Wednesday at a meeting with a provincially appointed conciliator and CUPE Local 79, which represents inside workers. A spokeswoman for the city said an "important matter" kept staff away.

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Patrick previously worked in the Globe's Winnipeg bureau, covering the Prairies and Nunavut, and at Toronto City Hall. He is a National Magazine Award recipient and author of the book Mountie In Mukluks. More

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