TORONTO — With a possible strike or lockout a week away, two unions representing 28,000 municipal workers say they’ve made a joint cost-saving proposal to city negotiators but that contract talks remain at an impasse.
CUPE Local 79 President Tim Maguire said Thursday that there has been “no movement” at the bargaining table on the crucial topic of job stability.
“We still remain far apart on the key issues,” he told reporters.
In an email to councillors that afternoon, Mayor John Tory said there is a “real chance” of labour disruption, and that information letters are being sent to those who would be directly affected — including parents of children in city child care.
The unions have extended a proposal for cost-savings and efficiencies they say open the door to a settlement before Feb. 19 — when a legal strike or lockout becomes possible.
The two-part proposal would merge the benefits plans of both Local 79 and CUPE Local 416, and see the unions working collaboratively with the city, Maguire said.
“If we were to pool the membership from both of our locals, that would achieve some cost savings for the city.”
Maguire and Local 416 bargaining committee Matt Alloway said their joint proposal would let the city make bulk purchases for the unions’ drug plans, saving up to $7 million.
“We think this is a move-forward proposal that could arrive at a solution in this round of negotiations,” Maguire said.
Local 416 represents 5,400 outside workers, including garbage collectors and parks staff while Local 79 represents 23,100 inside workers, including nurses, social service employees and ambulance dispatchers.
The unions said that they’re willing to keep negotiations going — pushing back any job action — beyond the looming deadline, set after a so-called no board report was issued when bargaining ground to a halt.
“We want to achieve a fair agreement for our members and if it takes going beyond that period we are willing to do that,” Alloway said.
But city negotiators said in a post on their website the union proposal fails to acknowledge the city’s needs, and include benefit enhancements and “more restrictive wording.”
The negotiators said they made their own proposal to the unions earlier this week, including wage increases, that is in line with settlements reached with other public-sector employees in Canada.
The municipal bargaining team has said it’s looking for new collective agreements that “respect the city’s financial circumstances.”
The unions have accused the city of proposing major cuts at the bargaining table.
Both unions have gone without contracts since Dec. 31. Their members have given their negotiators mandates to call strikes.
City officials say contingency plans are in place in an event of a strike or lockout and that key city services will not be affected.
With files from David Shum.
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