February 25, 2016 4:18 pm
Updated: February 26, 2016 12:55 am

CUPE 79 rally at City Hall draws large crowd and several sympathetic politicians

WATCH ABOVE: Outside workers are voting on a deal with the city of Toronto as negotiations continue with inside workers. Mark Carcasole reports.


TORONTO — An emphatic noon rally in Nathan Phillips Square was meant to “highlight the current efforts by CUPE 79 members to secure a fair contract,” according to the union. So far those efforts have failed to secure agreement between the city of Toronto and it’s 23,000 or so inside workers.

“We’ve worked through the mediation process to resolve some issues but the big ones are outstanding,” said Local 79 president Tim Maguire.


Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair stood with around several hundred union members and their supporters chanting “good services, good jobs.”

“I think it’s unfair in our society to expect our families to live on part-time, precarious work,” he said. “We got to get back to full-time decent jobs, and that’s why we’re here today.”


City councillors Joe Cressy, Mike Layton, Jim Karygiannis, Sarah Doucette and Mary Fragedakis also attended. “Nearly half of Torontonians are working in precious work environment: short, poorly page jobs,” said Cressy. “We need good, decent jobs in our city that’s how you build a strong economy. And I’m proud to stand up for good decent work.”

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One of the main issues that has blocked both sides from reaching a deal has been job stability and security for Local 79’s large part-time or temporary workforce. The union says more than half of their jobs fall under the part-time or temporary full-time category.

“It is difficult but you got to do what you got to do,” said Hannon Berseth, a 311 worker who says she regularly only works ten to fifteen hours a week and then relies on on-call shifts that become available. “It makes it difficult to find other employment because you’re never sure what your schedule will be – but also to plan your life. You’re never sure when you need that shift. You have to pay your bills.”

The union has been without a contract since December 31 and along with the city, have endured several marathon rounds of negotiation over the past couple of days

Local 79 began work-to-rule job action this week to show the city their resolve. Since Monday members have refused extra work and made sure to take scheduled breaks. It was routine for some staff to work through lunch according to the union.

“We’re understaffed, so you’re dealing with doing several jobs all at once,” said Lavel Williams, a case worker in the department of social services who was at the rally.

Yesterday deputy mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong released a statement saying the city’s position in bargaining has not change and that the “City’s proposal to the union is fair and in keeping with those settlements that have been made by other public sector employers throughout the country.” The proposal includes a wage increase and changes that help provide city services in a more effective manner according to the statement.

The inside workers include staff at child care and community centres across the city along with administrative and clerical roles at city hall.

There are 52 city-run child care centres across Toronto, and many parents were concerned about providing alternate arrangements should workers strike or be locked out. Both the city and union have not hinted on when this could happen. Union president Tim Maguire says negotiations are continuing.

© 2016 Shaw Media, 2016

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