Skip to main content

Toronto Mayor John Tory would not reveal the terms of the tentative four-year labour agreement.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Tim Maguire, the tie-and-jeans-wearing leader of Toronto's largest municipal workers union, was distinctly subdued on Thursday as he announced a tentative four-year labour agreement that came after what he called "tough slogging" at the bargaining table.

Neither Mr. Maguire nor Mayor John Tory would reveal the terms of the deal, which must still be voted on by the more than 20,000 members of Local 79 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents daycare attendants, swimming instructors and the city's other "inside workers."

But judging from Mr. Maguire's tepid comments, management must have largely got its way. He called the deal "the best collective agreements we were able to achieve under the circumstances," and he said the city was "reluctant" to deal with issues the union raised.

Story continues below advertisement

It's no wonder, since the city's two main municipal unions appear weaker than ever before in recent memory.

Carlo Fanelli, an instructor in Ryerson University's politics department who has studied the city's unions, said they are still dealing with the fallout from the financial crisis of 2008: "What we have seen since 2008-2009 is a cascading series of concessions."

CUPE Local 79 also faced the final days of bargaining without the added clout of CUPE Local 416, which represents garbage collectors and other "outside workers" and ratified its own deal with the city last week. Both unions walked out together in strikes in 2002 and 2009.

Local 416 has itself been weakened by the contracting out of garbage pickup west of Yonge Street, meaning that only half of the city's service would affected by a strike. Contracting out the rest is a future possibility.

The centrepiece of this round of talks was a city demand for the phase-out of a job-protection provision, often called a "jobs for life" clause, enjoyed by both unions. The clause, first accepted in 1999 by then-mayor Mel Lastman to avoid a strike, protected employees with 15 years of service from being laid off if their jobs were contracted out. Under the terms of the deal already agreed to by Local 416, it would be grandfathered for some current workers, but newer workers would not receive it.

Until Thursday, Local 79 was warning that accepting this clause would be unfair to its employees as well as open the door to "privatizing" city services such as child care and community centres.

Neither side would reveal publicly on Thursday whether Local 79 had also agreed to the concession.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Maguire referred elliptically to the Local 416 deal: "There is a deal out there that is a factor, the deal with Local 416."

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chairman of council's employee and labour relations committee, would only say the Local 79 deal was "within the framework" of the Local 416 settlement. Mr. Tory has repeatedly insisted that any deal with Local 79 had to align with the Local 416 settlement.

Whatever the details, it is clear that the large and powerful city unions inadvertently created when the provincial government under premier Mike Harris amalgamated the separate cities that made up Metro Toronto into one are less of a force than they once were.

In an interview, Mr. Minnan-Wong said the change has a lot to do with the outrage that erupted over the six-week 2009 strike Toronto suffered when David Miller was mayor: "People all of sudden who woke up to the great employment packages that the municipal sector in Toronto receive. It was a remarkable event … and it still carries over."

Tough talks in 2012 resulted in the unions accepting concessions. The strategy under then-mayor Rob Ford saw the city start talks earlier, to avoid having them drag on into summer, when a garbage strike is more damaging.

Mr. Maguire agreed that times are tough for both public-sector and private-sector unions: "I think we are in an era of aggressive bargaining by employers. … But our union is building as well. So we will continue on building into the future and for the next four years."

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter