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Outside workers in Toronto ratify new contract

Members of CUPE Local 416 arrive to vote on the latest offer in their negotiations with the City of Toronto on Feb. 13, 2012.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Members of CUPE Local 416 have voted to ratify a new contract agreement that was reached with the city last week, the union said Monday night.

Union president Mark Ferguson said a "large majority" of members voted in favour of the deal but didn't release an exact number. The union represents 6,000 garbage workers, paramedics and other outside workers. More than 3,400 members voted, Mr. Ferguson said.

The bargaining process was challenging, and there were "significant compromises" and "tough choices," Mr. Ferguson said. Key issues were employment security and redeployment, he said.

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The "jobs-for-life" clause has been restricted to employees with more than 15 years of experience. The four-year deal includes a 6-per-cent pay bump over four years (4.5 per cent in wage increases and 1.5 per cent in lump-sum payments), according to information sheets handed out to members earlier in the day.

EMS workers, who make up a minority of the members, were unhappy with the deal earlier Monday, accusing the union of selling out their interests and turning down the city's offer of an individual bargaining unit for paramedics.

But Mr. Ferguson said EMS workers aren't the only employees who will be compromising. "There are a number of people that are unhappy with this collective agreement. Some people say that when people are unhappy with an agreement, you know that you've struck the right balance," he said. Paramedics will have essential service status, he added.

The deal will still need to be approved by city council at a special meeting Wednesday morning.

"It's great news for taxpayers and it's great news for unions," Mayor Rob Ford said through his spokesperson.

The tentative agreement was reached last week after a 24-hour bargaining session, which prevented labour disruptions in the city.

Bargaining for this contract was historic, Mr. Ferguson said, calling the city's tactics to force a deal "draconian." As well, there was the looming potential of privatization and contracting out jobs, he said.

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Bargaining continues between the city and CUPE Local 79, which represents 23,000 city inside workers.

With a report from Patrick White

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