If Toronto's indoor workers go on strike this week, it will be the Ford administration's fault.
That was the message CUPE Local 79 president Tim Maguire delivered at a Monday afternoon press conference, a day after his union agreed to put the city's final offer to a vote among its members.
The union's 23,000 employees will be eligible to vote on the proposed terms this Wednesday, and even if the offer is rejected Maguire is pledging that his bargaining team will return to the table rather than call a strike. Despite members voting 85 per cent in favour of a strike mandate last week, he says the only way his union will walk is if the city unilaterally imposes its own contract terms, as it threatened to do during negotiations with its outdoor workers last month.
"We guaranteed, and I'm going to reiterate that guarantee, Local 79 will not be striking simply because we haven't negotiated a contract. We will return to the table and the city should meet us there," Maguire said.
"[A strike] will be on the city if it decides to impose terms and conditions."
Earlier in the day however, the city's director of human resources signaled that the administration has little intent to resume talks if the union rejects its terms, which he says are fair and final.
"There's not been an expectation we'll be changing our offer at any time," said Bruce Anderson, who is heading up negotiations for the Ford administration.
Anderson said possible responses in the event the union votes down the offer include locking out workers, imposing the terms of its final offer unilaterally, or imposing any other terms it sees fit.
Anderson said he hopes it doesn't come to that and that employees ratify the new contract, which the union agreed to present to its members as a result of marathon talks that ended 48 hours after the initial deadline expired 12:01 am Saturday.
"Our message to workers is we believe this is very fair," he said.
The leadership for Local 79-whose members include public health nurses, child care workers, building inspectors, and staffers at long-term care homes-has taken the unusual step of refusing to endorse the offer it's asking members to vote on.
The proposed four-year contract mirrors terms accepted by CUPE Local 416 in February, and would strip job security provisions from employees with less than 15 years experience, scale back health benefits and sick pay, and streamline redeployment procedures. It would also give employees a one-time lump sum payment worth 1.5 per cent of their salary in the first year of the contract, followed by a 4.5 per cent raise over the next three years.
In keeping with an informal agreement reached with the administration, Maguire would not say Monday whether he believes the offer is a good one for his members. He did suggest however that it more closely represents an effort in damage control than the union's ideal bargaining position.
"We tried to limit the damage this city administration is doing through negotiations to terms and conditions of employment of the people who deliver services to Torontonians," he said.
"This is not a deal. This is not a settlement. We're asking our members for their input in making the final decision."
Maguire has previously argued that the terms accepted by Local 416 are not appropriate for his union, which has a greater proportion of part-time workers. He has stated that giving job security only to those with 15 years seniority would leave too many employees vulnerable to having their jobs contracted out.
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