City workers touch every part of life: they fix roads, provide emergency care, test drinking water, connect us with library resources, run ice rinks, work at daycares, lead community workshops, and much more. We're facing tough economic times, and that's when when we need affordable, reliable public services most.
The 8,600 workers comprise the third of four bargaining units to accept a deal between the city and Local 79 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Members of two other bargaining units, representing full-time and part-time workers, accepted the city’s original offer, but the two sides went back to the bargaining table after the recreation part-timers voted it down.
“New adjustments included an increase to the amount of hours an employee is allowed to work in a particular position and paid time for mandatory recertification, which addressed some of our members’ concerns,” said Tim Maguire, president of Local 79. “This amended offer was the best settlement we could reach under the circumstances.”
All full-time and most part-time city employees have now ratified new contracts. A fourth bargaining unit, representing part-time employees of long-term care facilities, also rejected the offer, but that dispute will be settled through binding arbitration.
Toronto's public library workers (members of CUPE Local 4948 Toronto Public Library Workers Union) have ratified the collective agreement negotiated by their bargaining team with the library board.
Maureen O'Reilly, President of Local 4948, expressed pride in her union for members' patience in the face of an aggressive employer.
“This signals clear approval of our commitment to defending quality jobs and services, even when with an assault on the people who work to keep our communities working,” she said. “I'm saddened that the library board chose to join this assault. But I'm proud of our members, our bargaining team, and the public for reminding them that Toronto loves its libraries – and that libraries work because we do.”
Bargaining took place in the context of 107 staff positions already lost to the 2012 budget, even after public outcry prevented further cuts. The board aggressively bargained to gut employment security provisions – provisions which make such service cuts more difficult to implement.
Some key components of the negotiated settlement:
No concessions to benefits; and benefits for part-timers will be more customized to suit their unique working conditions.
The board was convinced of the need to protect quality jobs, and not convert any full-time positions to part-time. A modest number of full-time opportunities will even be created across the length of the agreement.
The board's desired cuts to employment security were pushed back to only those members with less than 11 years' seniority
“This was not about money – this was about ensuring that the employer values the work we do,” said O'Reilly. “That means valuing what our work makes possible. Library workers don't just lend books – they provide services and maintain spaces that support communities. They need support as well.
We look forward to going back to working with the people across Toronto, in libraries and in the struggle to bring an ethic of respect and decency back to City Hall.”
The union representing the majority of the City of Toronto employees has decided to submit the City’s final contract offer to a membership vote on Wednesday, March 28t.
Tim Maguire, president of Local 79 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said the union decided to submit the offer for a vote of its approximately 20,000 members after the City decided to end negotiations on key outstanding issues. The current contract will be extended until the vote is held.
Maguire said the Local’s Bargaining Committee would not make any recommendation to the membership on whether the offer should be accepted or rejected. “It’s time to let the members decide for themselves,” he said.
Details of the offer will be disclosed at three voting locations, which will be open from 7am to 8pm on Wednesday. “The City’s final offer contains significant changes to their collective agreements. We strongly encourage our members to attend, become well informed, reflect thoughtfully and vote accordingly.”
With their favourite Canadian books held high, supporters of Toronto's public librarians were joined by the Canadian Writers' Union, authors Susan Swan, Elizatbeth Ruth, and many others, outside the Toronto Reference Library this Sunday afternoon, for a read-in and rally with picketing library workers.
Greg Hollingshead, chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada, said the writers support library workers in their struggle to preserve Toronto’s public library system, the busiest in the world. The writers’ union represents over 2,000 Canadian writers.
“A library is not just a space to read but a space to learn, a space to teach, a space to bring children, a space to learn skills, to practice skills, to find a job, to connect with your city and its services,” Hollingshead said. “It’s a place to work on the person you want to be in the city you want to live in.”
“We’re supporting the library workers who help library users find the books and information they need, whether they are doing online research or writing a resume,” said Susan Swan, author of The Wives of Bath, and former Canadian Writers’ Union chair. “The Internet is a wonderful resource but it can’t replace the people who help others use it.”
Members of the public also took the mic, books in hand, to speak of the importance of libraries to them.
Toronto library employees have been on strike since March 18 in support of a new contract. The Toronto Public Library Board has demanded concessions from the 2,300 workers, including elimination of a key employment security clause which would open the door to library closures and further service cuts.
More than 2,300 employees of the Toronto Public Library are off the job after the negotiators for the Library Board continued their aggressive attack on workers’ job security.
The negotiations had continued past a midnight strike deadline, but in the end the Library Board failed to relent on its demands for concessions, and the union bargaining committee had little choice but to call a strike.
Maureen O’Reilly, president of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 4948, said the union had bargained hard to seek assurances that conditions would not get worse for library workers and lead to a further decrease in the quality of service. The Board’s position on job security would set the stage for further cuts to staff, on top of the 107 positions lost in the 2012 budget. According to O’Reilly, further cuts to staff would lead to possible branch closures.
O’Reilly will address a rally of striking union members at noon on March 19 in front of City Hall at 100 Queen Street West.
“We are very disappointed that the Board is attempting to continue the attacks launched by the Ford Administration on the rights of our members, more than half of whom are permanently stuck in part-time jobs,” O'Reilly said. “It's astounding the Board would rather see neighbourhood services disrupted than back off from cuts to already overworked staff.“
With Local 4948 members pushed out on strike, 98 neighbourhood branches across the city will not likely be able to operate.
“The Board thinks they can just ignore Toronto residents' love for librarians,” she added. “In recent polls, in letters, at rallies, at Council, people have been quite clear: they support the workers and the services they deliver.”
Even though library use has increased 29 per cent since 1998, staff numbers have decreased 17 per cent over the same period. Work is increasingly done through vulnerable part-time and page positions.
“Each time our members experience cuts, people get less services and fewer resources in their neighbourhood as well,” said O'Reilly. “We are not going to let our members get hung out to dry, and we are not going to allow Toronto's public libraries to be hollowed out.”
CUPE Local 79 will hold a strike vote on Tuesday, March 20, announced Tim Maguire, local president.
“We did not come by the decision to seek a strike mandate lightly,” said Maguire. “Our goal is to negotiate fair collective agreements without a strike. It's now clear the City can't say the same without something to focus their attention.”
New polling shows clear support for municipal workers in their contract talks, and disapproval of the City's bargaining strategy.
Previous polling showed Torontonians value their public services (84% wanted to increase or maintain funding), and a new poll shows this support extends right to the workers who provide them.
The poll was a live-interview telephone poll of 600 Toronto residents, with a +/-4.0% margin of error, conducted by Environics Research Group from March 9 through March 12, and commissioned by the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
It shows three-quarters of Torontonians are satisfied with municipal public services. Further,
54% believe City workers are “critically important” to these services (91% said they are important, overall).
77% of respondents believe that cuts to staffing would harm services.
Close to eight in ten oppose eliminating transfer of care at Long Term Care facilities, as it will lead to deterioration in care.
While the employer has pursued a strategy of eroding rights for part-time workers, the public feels especially strongly that their working conditions should in fact be improved:
71% support extending benefits to all permanent part-timers. This is true even among those who sympathize with the City.
Three-quarters believe further eliminating full-time jobs in libraries would erode service.
A majority of the public is opposed to the City’s s aggressive approach to bargaining and notably, a slim majority would support a strike in the face of threats of unilateral claw backs of job security and benefits.
62% disapprove of a potential City threat to impose new conditions that are detrimental to workers.
54% believe a strike would be justified if the City unilaterally cuts benefits and weakens job security.
The Toronto Public Library is a perfect example of the high regard Toronto has for public workers:
A majority (61%) sympathize with librarians, not the employer, in contract talks.
64% specifically support preventing further erosion of full-time library jobs to part-time work.
77% believe that loss of library positions would degrade the quality of library services.
“I'm pleased to see numbers that emphasize the knowledge that already resides with our members and those who rely on the services they provide,” said Tim Maguire, president of CUPE Local 79. “Torontonians benefit when we are able to do our job – because our job is supporting them.
“I hope this will focus the employer's mind on their job: negotiating a contract that serves everyone.”
“Support for librarians is clear in any branch across the city,” said Maureen O'Reilly, President of CUPE Local 4948 (Toronto Public Library Workers Union). “If members of the board spent more time in the libraries they oversee, and less planning an ideological attack, they'd already know it. They need to foster an environment that in which we can do the work we love and Toronto residents expect.”
Librarians and members of the public rallied today in support of Toronto Public Library services, and against the library board's threat to those services through provocative demands, days before a bargaining deadline.
Maureen O'Reilly, President of CUPE Local 4948 (Toronto Public Library Workers Union), told rally participants that the board is risking services by not budging from provocative demands that would make it harder for librarians to make ends meet while meeting growing demand.
“Thanks to the recent budget reversal, the support for our libraries across Toronto is obvious,” said O'Reilly. “The board is trying to pretend that this somehow doesn't mean support for librarians. But it's clear they can expect an outcry if they disrupt libraries by disrupting our ability to work.”
O'Reilly was joined by poet, journalist, and performer Robert Priest, librarian Mary Bissell, and library patron Guy Ewing.
Bissell is an experienced librarian, but still works two jobs to put together a living wage. She said Torontonians may be surprised to learn the Library does not give librarians the treatment they deserve.
"I provide the alternative to Wikipedia,” she said. “I've never received benefits, and between both jobs often work 12 days in a row. I'm no longer sure I'll ever find full-time employment before I retire. I love being a librarian, but my economic future is grim.”
Ewing said it is time to face up to the “human costs” of starving the library system.
“It was librarians who led the fight during the budget. Thanks to their campaign, the board withdrew from many cuts when Torontonians showed love for their libraries,” he said. “We must continue to show that love, by supporting librarians. In bargaining, they face the cuts they helped us fight in the budget.”
Robert Priest lamented the loss of the public library culture which made him a writer and Torontonian.
"If I had been turned loose in a massive book warehouse with the same degree of customer service now so invisible in megastores like Home Depot it would have been a vastly diminished experience," he said. "Librarians to me were never cashiers or salespeople. They were mentors and fellow fans of literature with whom one experienced a feeling of community."
After the City insisted that its request for a no board report was needed to "focus" talks with CUPE Local 79 on the employer's proposals, it has nonetheless added 6 new demands to its already long list of concessions.
The union responded by laying a charge of bargaining in bad faith against the City at the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
Tim Maguire, president of CUPE Local 79, said the City’s move to add more concessions was a step backward in the negotiations that had up to that point been making steady, if slow, progress.
“Their move was completely outside the usual scope of our bargaining with the City,” Maguire said.
While the two sides are continuing to bargain, Maguire said he hopes that the bad-faith charge will “inject some discipline” into the City’s negotiating strategy. The union has asked the Labour Relations Board to nullify the new concessionary demands, since the City had already tabled all of its proposals and the union had responded to them.
The escalation in demands includes a further rollback to benefits on vision care, further deletion of scheduling by seniority for part-time employees, reduced hours for day program workers at long-term care facilities and the ability of the City to unilaterally change the hours of work for EMS employees.
Local 79 represents 23,000 City of Toronto employees working in all City offices, parks and recreation centres, public health facilities and long-term care centres. The two sides are now in conciliation, and will be in a legal strike/lockout position on Saturday, March 24.
Maureen O'Reilly and Tim Maguire, presidents of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) locals 4948 and 79, joined city workers to warn the public about an increased reliance on increasingly precarious
By aiming for more part-time work (such as in Local 4948) and reducing access to hours for part-time workers (such as in
Local 79), concessions sought from both locals would hurt the quality and availability of work in libraries and community centres.
At the Toronto Public Library (TPL), staffing levels are shrinking even as usage is growing. More and more work is being done by part-time employees, who get no additional compensation.
“Many of our members are already struggling to put together the hours to pay the bills and afford medical needs,” said O'Reilly. “The City puts a lot of energy into helping people make ends meet. It makes no sense to push our members toward the same kind of precarity they are helping others avoid.”
Maguire pointed out that the City's proposal to remove workers' access to hours by seniority would represent a drastic change in their thousands of part-time members' ability to make a decent living.
“The most experienced and loyal part-time staff are given priority access to hours,” said Maguire. “They can plan on a predictable, living income. And the City can plan on attracting and keeping the most experienced and skilled workers.”
Meghan Tanaka, Local 79 member and lifeguard, questioned the sense in eliminating seniority scheduling and opening the door to favouritism. “Why would the City want to get rid of a fair, objective practice that can't be exploited?” she said. “Despite what some think, we don't want seniority to trump job performance. We want fair treatment. Elimination of seniority scheduling leaves us very vulnerable.”
“Public services shouldn't be a dead-end,” said Vanessa Marion-Merrit, a part-time library worker. “I work in the library because I want to contribute to my community, and develop my skills – but all I'm seeing is bleak prospects and low pay.”
* * *
CUPE Local 79has four bargaining units, three of them including thousands of part-time workers providing child care, recreations programs and services for the homeless. Three quarters of Local 79 members are women, and a great many are young workers. With any loss of scheduling rights, comes loss of income – and loss of access to benefits on which staff rely.
CUPE Local 4948 (Toronto Public Library Workers)positions have been reduced by 17% since amalgamation, though TPL use grew 29%. Part-time members do more, have difficulty finding full-time work, and rarely qualify for benefits (only 22% – and even they must pay 40% of those benefits).
Tim Maguire, President of CUPE Local 79, reacted today to the City of Toronto's request for a “no board” report regarding contract negotiations.
“I'm very concerned by the City's decision to move to request a no board without engaging in meaningful bargaining,” said Maguire. “We've waited 12 weeks for discussions and real proposals on issues affecting Local 79. Instead they've moved toward a countdown period as a threat against daycare workers, lifeguards, Long Term Care staff and people who rely on them.”
A no board report, once issued, will set a 17-day countdown in effect. When that countdown elapses, the City can threaten to use options such as can unilaterally change the terms and conditions of staff's work – effectively imposing a new contract.
“The City can't use a settlement with Local 416 as an inflexible template,” said Maguire. “I was pleased to hear yesterday Deputy Mayor Holyday recognize that Local 79's issues aren't the same. That needs to be communicated to their bargaining team. And it needs to translate into a flexible approach that respects our members, and those they support across Toronto.”
About CUPE Local 79
Local 79 has 4 bargaining units, covering 400 different classes of jobs, each with unique skills.
Some troubling proposals from the employer exclusive to talks with Local 79:
Just some of the services provided by Local 79 include:
Long Term Care, daycare, lifeguard who teaches us how to swim, and other recreation services, employment services, public health (nurses and inspectors), building inspection, water quality inspection, cleaning, and clerical work across various divisions of the City.
The Toronto Public Library Workers Union (CUPE Local 4948) has requested the Ministry of Labour issue a “no board” report on its contract negotiations with the Toronto Public Library Board.
Maureen O'Reilly, President of Local 4948, said the union made the no-board request because negotiations had reached an impasse. Despite the presence of a conciliator, the employer has not shown any interest in substantive negotiations leading to a collective agreement that would ensure stability and protect the library services Toronto residents depend on.
“It's our members who deliver those services. And our members value the services they deliver just as much as the public does,” said O'Reilly. “But it's also our members being cut from budgets, and now the Library Board is seeking massive concessions from their contract.
This threatens the quality of remaining jobs, and the conditions for those doing them; and that further threatens the quality of service. We are being stretched thin. If the Board values public library services, they will remove the concessions, and negotiate a fair deal, so we can assure the public that workers have secured the sustainable conditions they need to provide the best library services on the continent.”
The Toronto Public Library is the most highly-used public library system in the world, and its staff face many unique issues in negotiating their contract, which expired January 1 of this year.
Even though public support from across the city avoided branch closures and cuts to open hours, deep cuts were made to staff. The TPL lost 107 positions – resulting in a 17% cut to staff since amalgamation, even though usage has increased 29% in the same time. One million more people made use of Toronto's public libraries in 2011 than in the previous year.
Three quarters of the TPL workforce are women. Half of employees are now part-time, and the TPL is relying more on part-time work and check-out machines. More work being done for less reward reduces quality of life for staff, which reduces quality of service for the public. There could not be a worse time to strip away workplace protections and make it harder for this growing pool of precarious employees to do their jobs.
“Our amazing public library is unique in the world,” said O'Reilly. “And our workers are in a unique position, with unique concerns. This request is a common precautionary measure to make sure that it's these unique circumstances – and not a central ideology coming from City Hall – that are at the centre of discussions.”
In January, people all across Toronto joined with CUPE 4948, the library workers union, and asked their City Councillors to defend Toronto Public Library services. As a result, millions of dollars worth of cuts were successfully kept out of the 2012 budget.
Now, City management is using labour negotiations with CUPE 4948 to bring those cuts in through the back door – and make it easier to cut even more library service during next year's budget.
Read more to find out what could prevent library workers from delivering the services people need.
The attached document provides a basic outline of proposed changes to the collective agreement between the City of Toronto and its outside workers.
Members of the Toronto Civic Employees Union (TCEU), Local 416 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 416) today ratified a four-year collective agreement with the City of Toronto.
"The City came to the bargaining table with a long list of demands for concessions and clawbacks, in the hopes of provoking our members into a negative reaction. Our members refused to take their bait, and when the employer finally sat down and negotiated, we successfully beat back most of what the City threw at us," Mark Ferguson, President of CUPE 416 said following the vote.
"With this contract now settled, our members can continue to provide the great public services Torontonians rely on. They understood the importance of reaching consensus and finding common ground in this difficult round of negotiations," he added.
Highlights of the new four-year agreement include 6 per cent in wage improvements, an interest arbitration mechanism for EMS workers and the retention of employment security provisions for permanent employees with 15 years or more of service.
Ferguson thanked members, his bargaining team and the residents of Toronto for their support during what he characterized as, "perhaps the toughest negotiations ever undertaken by a local municipal union in Canadian history."
"In the end, it was their commitment to the quality public services that make Toronto a great place to live that made this agreement possible," said Ferguson.
Mark Ferguson, President of Toronto Civic Employees Union, CUPE Local 416, was published in the National Post yesterday, with a reflection on the long road to compromise with the employer:
"We know, however, that a small circle of people close to the Mayor’s office directed negotiations. At every opportunity to de-escalate, to sit down and negotiate, they chose instead to put people’s services at risk, by risking the jobs of the people who deliver them.
It would have been easy to follow suit, and turn negotiations in to a battle. It was probably expected as well. But rather than hurt the public — and our democratic culture — we answered every provocation with another offer to seek compromise."
Writing in NOW Magazine this week, Adam Giambrone had the following observations on CUPE 416's calm approach to bargaining, the resulting win-win situation, and the context in which it all happened:
"...CUPE 416 and its president, Mark Ferguson, can clearly be credited with an excellent strategy that insures they will remain critical players in city decisions and grassroots politics.
While we don’t know all the terms yet, some job security for employees appears to have been negotiated, and despite all the mayor’s team’s invective about overpaid workers, CUPE members, according to reports, appear to have achieved yearly increases of around 1.5 per cent a year [- that's less than projected inflation for 2012 (web ed.) - ] and more or less maintained their benefits.
While the mayor attempted to destroy the local public service unions, at most he was able to wrest minor concessions. But CUPE was savvy, at once fighting to protect the decent quality of life of its thousands of members and their families and reassuring the public that it is committed to controlling costs.
The rejection of the Ford budget and the lead-up to Wednesday’s (February 8) special council meeting on transit, called against the mayor’s will, obviously signal to CUPE 416 that while the debate on privatization isn’t dead, it will be a much more even fight. While 1,000 city employees have lost their jobs, a reinvigorated union movement and a stronger will on council might mean this is the end of major layoffs."
Mark Ferguson, President of Toronto Civic Employees' Union, CUPE Local 416, announced early this morning that the Local and the City negotiators have developed a working framework for a new collective agreement.
"From the start, our responsibilities were clear: to negotiate a deal, and maintain our ability to deliver high-quality community services," said Ferguson. "I am pleased to report that we are close to reaching our goal."
Ferguson and his bargaining committee emerged after nearly a day in media silence exhausted and somewhat optimistic that the complete settlement is in sight.
"Throughout the process we have provided the City with many efficiencies and creative solutions to extremely difficult problems. There is no doubt that our members are making sacrifices. We are going to keep working to finalize a deal that gives the City flexibility and affordability while still delivering great public services."
The City and Union are expected to continue working together over the next 48 hours to finish the agreement before proposing it for ratification by Local 416 members and City Council.
Ferguson thanked his team and members. "This has been a hard bargaining process. I have an amazing team at the table with me, and the support of my Executive Committee and my members has been absolutely invaluable. I couldn't have come this far without them."
The following remarks were given by Mark Ferguson, President of CUPE local 416 TCEU, to reporters today:
Yesterday morning, our union tabled a package of very significant proposal with concessions in a number of areas. Top of that list was our three year wage freeze and a new five year restriction on employment security.
I believed we were making progress towards a successfully negotiated collective agreement. It’s why we avoided speaking with reporters throughout the day.
We had just tabled a very significant proposal where we moved on a number of issues. It took a lot for us to put this on the table. With our offer, our members would have to work for five years before earning the basic right to employment protection.
Our offer was unprecedented from a union in the City of Toronto. Not surprisingly, the City’s chief negotiator seemed pleased and we thought we could start to see a framework of a deal coming into place.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Late last night the City put a provocative, threatening final offer on the table that basically guts our collective agreement, to the detriment of both workers and the services they provide.
We were told to take it or leave it – this would be the City’s final offer, 48 hours before their own, arbitrary deadline. It is clearest demonstration to date that the City has no interest to bargain a collective agreement with us at this time.
Their proposal came wrapped in a threat.
Either we accept this deal by 12:01am Sunday or the City will impose terms and conditions on workers without a collective agreement. For example, as early as Sunday morning, the City could start firing and laying off workers across the City.
The City’s position clearly seeks to provoke us into a fight. There is no other way to read it. And it is also unprecedented. I spoke to many colleagues with decades of experience last night and not one of them had seen anything like this within municipal public sector in Canada.
In fact, the only real comparison they could come up with is what’s happening to Electromotive workers in London.
Put simply, the City had decided it is better to be a bully than a problem solver.
Our reaction is this: We will not be provoked. We will remain at the table working to find an agreement that is fair, affordable and that allows workers to continue to provide quality services to residents. Just like we have been for the past four months.
Remember, we did not come to the table with any significant proposal to enhance our agreement. Instead we have agreed to more than 40 of the City’s proposals, we have offered a three year wage freeze and a five year restriction on employment security. We proposed real solutions to a dozen other City complaints.
For several weeks, while we have struggled to engage an unwilling partner at the bargaining table, the Deputy Mayor has been telling you the City wants a negotiated settlement. What we now know is the City has never been interested in getting a deal here. And if the Deputy Mayor tells you today he wants a deal, he’s not being truthful.
The City has forcefully pushed us to a deadline while remaining entrenched in a position they knew would never lead to a deal.
There is a deal to be negotiated here. A deal that preserves services, and keeps Toronto working together. A deal that residents, workers, and City Councillors can accept. We are certain of this, and we remain committed to work toward that end.
The only thing standing between us and a deal right now is that the City doesn’t want one.
After revealing to the Toronto Star's David Rider that the City has rejected the union's offer of a 3-year wage freeze - insisting instead that they take a 4-year wage hike - Mark Ferguson, President of CUPE 416 TCEU, has written an op-ed giving an overview of what his members really want in bargaining.
Our members aren’t seeking any major gains to our contract. We just want to keep working, and we share people’s concern over what will happen to services if we aren’t allowed to do so. But we’re also hopeful that there is still time — for the employer, the public and our members — to reflect on the importance of that work and how it gets done.
When more than 1,000 positions were lost during the budget, it put to rest any speculation about “jobs for life” at city hall. And it emphasized how public programs delivered by experienced people make Toronto what it is.
That’s why we’ve offered a three-year wage freeze, freeing up $25 million for services Toronto residents depend on. It’s why we have proposed ways to improve shift schedules. It’s why we have tabled a way to make redeployment of staff when positions are eliminated more efficient for everyone.