NEWS

No deal yet in Toronto contract talks

01/27/2012 12:15 EST | Updated 03/28/2012 05:12 EDT

With just over a week to go until the City of Toronto and one of its major unions are in a position for either a strike or a lockout, the union says the negotiations are going nowhere.

"I would characterize this as a union-busting exercise," CUPE 416 president Mark Ferguson said Friday.

"This isn't about negotiations. This about payback for 2009. This is about disrespecting the very employees he [Mayor Rob Ford] is the chief magistrate of," he said, referring to the municipal workers' strike in the summer of 2009 which lasted nine weeks.

The deadline for the two sides to come to an agreement before a strike or lockout can occur is Feb. 5.

"I don't believe this administration is serious about getting to a deal and that's a very troubling perspective," Ferguson said.

The union leader held a news conference in a downtown hotel on Friday morning, just before returning to negotiations with the city.

The contract between the city and its major unions expired on Jan. 1. Since that time negotiations have failed to produce an agreement.

In the case of the 'outside' workers, Ferguson said, he believes the city wants to force a showdown.

"I have received information from the city that they plan a labour disruption. I don't know exactly how they're going to do it, if in fact we're saying we're not going to take [strike] action."

Ferguson said his union members don't intend to take job action, so the city will have two options: a lockout of workers or imposing what he called "draconian measures" on the workers that will force them into a strike.

The city is asking for changes in the contract language to give it, what deputy mayor Doug Holyday calls, more flexibility.

"We want to get management rights back in the hands of management," Holyday said earlier this month.

The main issues appear to be seniority, job security, wages and benefits.

Local 416 has said it doesn't want to strike and Ferguson repeated on Friday that "we don't want to be on the street."

CUPE Local 416 represents about 6,000 key outside workers who collect garbage, remove snow and do other road and park maintenance.

Another local, CUPE 4998, which represents library workers said Friday it has asked for conciliation in its talks with the city.

The other major union involved in negotiations is CUPE 79, which negotiates on behalf of about 18,000 city employees. It continues to negotiate.

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