Toronto Strike Deadline Passes, Talks Continue
A strike or lockout of Toronto's largest union remains on hold as the two sides continue to negotiate past a midnight deadline.
A work stoppage involving the city's 23,000 inside workers would affect Toronto arenas, pools, community centres and fitness centres.
CUPE Local 79 represents daycare workers, clerks, child-care workers, nurses, janitors and community centre employees. The union's contract with the city expired on Dec. 31, 2011.
The city is negotiating with the union, whose members voted in favour of a strike mandate on Wednesday.
The union was in a legal strike position as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday, but the union said it would not strike if the deadline arrived without a new deal and negotiations were continuing.
Both sides say they are making progress.
Toronto Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday confirmed to reporters early Saturday that the talks were still going and said he was hopeful an agreement could be reached.
"I don't think we're going to lock them out; as long as meaningful discussions are taking place we're going to be at the table," Holyday said.
Negotiators for the city and for the union took a break until noon Saturday, then resumed talks.
Union spokesperson Cim Nun said there are significant hurdles to be overcome, but that the union is hopeful.
In the event of a work stoppage, city sewer, water and emergency services, as well as the TTC, would continue to operate.
The city's library workers are already on strike. Job security appears to be the sticking point in both disputes.
Nun said the city wants to give the inside workers the same job security that it recently gave outside workers — job security after 15 years.
The union feels that's unfair because such a deal protects about 70 per cent of the outside workers, but would only provide job security to about half the inside workers.
FLASHPOINTS IN THE HISTORY OF CANADIAN LABOUR
Labour Day: A Canadian Invention
Few Canadians realize it, but Labour Day is as Canadian as maple bacon. It all began in 1872, when the Toronto Typographical Union went on strike to demand a nine-hour workday. When <i>Globe and Mail</i> chief George Brown had the protest organizers arrested, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald passed a law legalizing labour unions. Thus, a Conservative prime minister became a hero to the working class, and Canada became among the first countries to limit the workday, doing so decades before the U.S. The typographers' marches became an annual event, eventually being adopted by the U.S., becoming the modern day Labour Day.
The Winnipeg General Strike
The end of World War I brought social instability and economic volatility to Canada. On May 15, 1919, numerous umbrella union groups went out on strike in Winnipeg, grinding the city to a halt. Protesters were attacked in the media with epithets such as "Bolshevik" and "Bohunk," but resistance from the media and government only strengthened the movement. In June, the mayor ordered the Mounties to ride into the protest, prompting violent clashes and the death of two protesters. After protest leaders were arrested, organizers called off the strike. But the federal mediator ended up ruling in favour of the protesters, establishing the Winnipeg General Strike as the most important strike in Canadian history, and a precursor to the country's modern labour movement.
The Regina Riot
During the Great Depression, the only way for a single male Canadian to get government assistance was to join "relief camps" -- make-work projects set up by the federal government out of concern idle young men were a threat to the nation. The relief camps, with their poor work conditions, became breeding grounds for communists and other radicals. The "On-To-Ottawa Trek" was organized as a protest that would move from Vancouver across the country to Ottawa, to bring workers' grievances to the prime minister. The trek halted in Regina when Prime Minister R.B. Bennett promised to talk to protest organizers. When talks broke down, the RCMP refused to allow the protesters to leave Regina and head for Ottawa, and on June 26, 1935, RCMP riot officers attacked a crowd of protesters. More than 100 people were arrested and two killed -- one protester and one officer.
In May, 1938, unemployed men led by communist organizers occupied a post office and art gallery in downtown Vancouver, protesting over poor work conditions at government-run Depression-era "relief camps." In June, the RCMP moved in to clear out the occupiers, using tear gas inside the post office. The protesters inside smashed windows for air and armed themselves with whatever was available. Forty-two people, including five officers, were injured. When word spread of the evacuation, sympathizers marched through the city's East End, smashing store windows. Further protests against "police terror" would be held in the weeks to come.
Giant Mine Bombing
In 1992, workers at Royal Oak Mines' Giant Mine in the Northwest Territories went on strike. On September 18, a bomb exploded in a mineshaft deep underground, killing nine replacement workers. Mine worker Roger Warren was convicted of nine counts of second-degree murder. The Giant Mine closed in 2004.
The Toronto G20
The Canadian Labour Congress, representing numerous labour groups, participated in protests in Toronto during the G20 summit in June, 2010. When a handful of "Black Block" anarchists rioted through the city core, it brought an overwhelming police response that resulted in the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. More than 1,000 people were arrested, with most never charged with any crime. Numerous allegations of police brutality have been made, and the Toronto police are now the target of several multi-million dollar lawsuits. So far, two police officers have been charged with crimes relating to G20 policing, and charges against other police officers are also possible.
When Vancouver-based magazine Adbusters suggested the public "occupy Wall Street" to protest corporate malfeasance, New Yorkers took the suggestion seriously, and occupied Zuccotti Park in Manhattan. Canadians followed suit, sparking copycat occupations in all major Canadian cities in September, 2011. By December, most of the occupations had been cleared, all of them non-violently. Though the protests achieved no specific goals, they did change the political conversation in North America. What their long-term legacy will be remains to be seen.