Following provincial approval, thousands of unionized City of Toronto employees will be able to take job action or be locked out by the City before the end of February.
The City’s outside workers, which are made up of about 5,000 members of CUPE Local 416, have been without a contract since the end of 2019. Their jobs range from garbage and recycling collection east of Yonge Street, water treatment, road maintenance and snow clearing.
Toronto paramedics are also part of the union, but they are essential services and are not permitted to strike. Other ambulance staff, like mechanics, would be allowed to take part in job action.
After five days of conciliation, the City and the union weren’t able to come to an agreement over key contract issues including job security, wages, parental leave and benefits.
The City opted to request a “no board report” from the Ministry of Labour, which has been granted. The province’s approval will allow the workers to strike or the City to lock them out as of Feb. 27.
“I really hope we don’t, I’d rather keep working,” said recycling truck driver Greg Fuller.
“You know, I enjoy what I do and I think we do an excellent public service.”
The union’s leadership also would like to avoid a strike.
Local 416 president Eddie Mariconda said the union wanted to remain at the bargaining table. He said the union wanted to continue negotiating and feels the city’s tactics have put his members and residents in the position for a work stoppage.
“It’s gotta bet fair for both sides,” said Mariconda.
“The City just wants concession after concession after concession, and at some point, you got to say, ‘When is enough is enough?’”
But City of Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross said the City chose to ask for a no board report because progress wasn’t being made at the bargaining table.
“The City is not prepared to sit and wait. We want to have a collective agreement,” said Ross.
While both sides could prompt a work stoppage as of Feb. 27, they could still opt to carry on bargaining. The City’s roughly 20,000 unionized inside workers are also without a contract after it expired at the end of December.
Ross said Local 79 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Local 79) has filed for conciliation in their negotiations as well.
The last job action taken by Local 416 was in 2009. The strike lasted 39 days.
The City is currently coming up with a contingency plan in case of another work stoppage.