Toronto Mayor John Tory says he sees no reason why unionized municipal workers and the city can’t come to a labour agreement as a strike deadline looms in less than 24 hours.
“I have told our negotiators that I want to keep the pressure on to get an agreement today because I think it’s very important that we don’t have uncertainty hanging over the city and that we keep pushing,” Tory told reporters during a press conference Thursday morning.
Thousands of unionized municipal workers in Toronto could be on strike or locked out as early as 12:01 a.m. ET on Feb. 19 if a labour deal isn’t reached.
CUPE local 416, which represents the city’s outside workers, may be off the job in a matter of hours while inside workers represented by CUPE local 79 is slated to hit the picket line at 12:01 a.m. ET on Feb. 20.
WATCH: CUPE Local 416 willing to go beyond deadline to achieve collective agreement with Toronto
“I see a sense of urgency about getting a deal done today. I think it is possible. I think the positions were are taking are imminently reasonable in the context of how we find things in 2016,” said Tory.
Union leaders for both groups say they are willing to continue negotiations past the deadlines if talks progress.
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 have accused the city of proposing major cuts at the bargaining table while the municipality cites “financial circumstances” as a reason to curb costs.
“The will not and cannot give into demands for more money and make no adjustments to extremely generous benefit provisions,” said Tory.
“I believe the people of Toronto understand that we must do something to contain those costs and I believe the hard-working city employees understand that too.”
City child care, community centres and garbage collection east of Yonge Street are among the services that will be shut down if a deal doesn’t come together.
Essential services like paramedics and long-term care homes won’t be affected and other municipal services such as transit, police, fire services, community housing and all but four library branches will continue as normal.
Tim Maguire, President of CUPE Local 79 said a deal would not be possible by today “if nothing changes.”
“We’ve put forward a framework for settlement,” he said. “We need to work within that framework.”
Maguire says 75 per cent of his membership is made up of women, and one of his priorities is to look after their interests.
“This city is currently the most unequal city in this country and we have to work collaboratively to change that,” he said.
“Coming after sick leave, coming after benefits, and coming after wages for the women and men in the city is going to make that worse not better.”
With a file from Will Campbell
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