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Union Told 'Take It Or Leave It,' CUPE Boss Says

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The city and its 6,000 unionized outside workers appear to be nowhere near reaching a new labour deal as a weekend deadline for an agreement draws near.

On Friday both Mark Ferguson — the head of CUPE Local 416 — and city officials expressed exasperation at the negotiations in separate news conferences.

Ferguson appeared first, saying the city rejected a union offer that included a three-year wage freeze and a five-year restriction on job security.

He said the city countered that offer late Thursday with one that “basically guts our collective agreement.”

“We thought we could see the framework of a deal coming into place,” said Ferguson. “Nothing could have been further from the truth. We were told to take it or leave it.”

“Their proposal came wrapped in a threat," said Ferguson. "Either we accept their proposal by 12:01 Sunday morning or the city would impose terms and conditions on workers without a collective agreement.”

A few hours later, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday and Bruce Anderson, the city's executive director of human resources, appeared in their own news conference where they outlined details of their offer made to the union.

Their offer, according to Anderson, includes a four-year deal with annual lump-sum payments of 1.25 per cent of base salary, rising to 1.75 per cent by year four.

The city also wants less restrictive rules about how work is scheduled, how sick days are paid and when workers are allowed to take their lunch, among other issues.

The city's offer also calls for provisions to curtail absenteeism, limit health plan costs and give the city a freer hand on contracting out jobs and hiring replacement workers.

"The city has always said that the issue is not about wages," said Anderson. "But about terms and conditions in the collective agreement that are restrictive to the city in the way it operates and manages."

Saturday midnight deadline

Both sides are working ahead of the Sunday deadline. That's when a "no-board report" issued Jan. 19 expires, clearing the way for either the city to lock out workers or the union to begin strike action.

Because the workers' contract expired on Jan. 1, the city could also impose new terms and conditions on employment after the no-board expires, which may prompt the union to begin strike action.

The union has not taken a strike vote and as of Friday afternoon, wasn't planning to hold one ahead of the deadline.

Anderson said if no deal is reached before the deadline, the city will impose terms and conditions based on their offer tabled on Thursday night.

"All employees are expected to continue to work [in the event terms and conditions are implemented]," said Anderson. "Business will be expected to continue as usual."

Anderson also said there is still time for both sides to reach a deal before the deadline.

“Significant things can happen in the last day of bargaining," he said. "We are bargaining in good faith.”

Holyday said the city has contingency plans if a strike occurs, but did not offer details.

"If the union struck then we would issue instructions and the public would be aware of what could be expected," he said.

The outside workers collect garbage and perform road and park maintenance. They also remove snow, although 75 per cent of snow clearing is contracted out.

There would be garbage drop-off locations and transfer stations, but curbside pick-up will stop everywhere except Etobicoke, where garbage collection is contracted out.

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