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CUPE Local 79 union president Tim Maguire stands in front of bargaining line on March 26, 2012. (Michelle Siu/ The Globe and Mail)
CUPE Local 79 union president Tim Maguire stands in front of bargaining line on March 26, 2012. (Michelle Siu/ The Globe and Mail)

Toronto recreation workers reach tentative deal Add to ...

Mayor Rob Ford’s administration has moved one step closer to complete labour peace, after a five-hour negotiating session yielded a tentative contract with part-time recreation workers.

Union members must still vote on the deal, likely Tuesday, and city council will also have to give its approval, but with CUPE Local 79 leaders endorsing the pact, it was enough for Mr. Ford to claim victory.

“There’s not going to be labour disruption for four years, I think that’s a first,” he said Friday.

Over the past few months, his critics had maintained that the conservative, budget-cutting mayor was sure to provoke a strike. They were proven wrong, he said.

“They always say that I can’t do anything but I take one day at a time and we keep moving the ball down the field. We have been doing a lot of great stuff in the last 18 months and obviously the next two and a half years, and four years after that,” Mr. Ford said.

Details of the contract will be released to union members next week but won’t be made public unless the deal is approved. Earlier this week, they voted down a previous deal. Union president Tim Maguire said the current agreement contains similar elements as the old one, but that his team successfully pushed the city to make a few changes.

“Today the city agreed to return to the bargaining table and, based on some outstanding issues we raised, agreed to adjust their approach to bargaining and adjust the offer to the part-time workers’ collective agreement,” he said.

The city’s head negotiator said the breakthrough came when the union made a proposal that altered the contract but didn’t make it any more expensive for the city.

“We went back and thought about it, looked at the costing issue and it did nothing in terms of the overall cost of the settlement,” Bob Reynolds said.

While the last two months have been rough for Mr. Ford, whose transit plan was voted down by council, he has reached deals with nearly all of the city’s unions. In February, the city threatened to unilaterally impose a settlement on outdoor workers and that union swiftly agreed to a compromise. Earlier this week, most indoor workers also endorsed a deal. Library employees went on strike for less than two weeks before agreeing to a new contract Thursday.

City manager Joe Pennachetti said the public purse would save “significant” money as a result of all the deals.

The contract for workers in long-term care homes, who are designated an essential service, will be referred to arbitration.

The swift resolution is a contrast with the previous round of negotiations in 2009, when the administration of then-mayor David Miller suffered a bruising summer strike by both inside and outside workers.

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