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Toronto’s inside workers vote on strike mandate

CUPE Local 79 president Tim Maguire speaks to reporters on March 20, 2012. CITYNEWS.

Toronto inside workers are voting on a strike mandate, and could be off the job as early as Saturday when either side could take work stoppage action.

CUPE Local 79 represents 23,000 people including civil servants, child care workers, ambulance dispatchers, nurses and janitors.  The results of the Tuesday vote are now expected after midnight.

“We do not intend to walk off the job Saturday morning simply because there’s not a collective agreement even with a strike mandate,” union president Tim Maguire said Tuesday. “We’re seeking a strike mandate to put some leverage at the table to get some negotiations on some chief issues.”

He said, “Local 79 members provide services that affect every citizen of Toronto, from protecting clean water to childcare to issuing building permits.”

“We think it’s important to have protection for them in the collective agreement.”

The union said Sunday the city is asking for major concessions and a deal that offers much less than the one negotiated for city outside workers.

“The union has not been available to meet during the day,” deputy mayor Doug Holyday charged Monday.

“Our negotiators are exactly the same team that reached an agreement with CUPE Local 416, so we know they’re competent, they’re patient.”

If the strike vote is approved, Local 79 could join members of the Toronto Public Library Workers’ Union (CUPE Local 4948) on the picket lines. Library workers went on strike Monday.

Job security and scheduling issues are the key points in the talks. The city wants to change the terms of a so-called “jobs-for-life” clause in the contract.

That same issue was a sticking point in the negotiations with Local 416, which represents the city’s outside workers. In that case, the union compromised on the jobs-for-life clause, and the current collective agreement provides job security from contracting-out to employees with 15 years of service or more.

Council approved the four-year deal Local 416 struck with city negotiators on Feb. 15.

The collective agreement governing Local 79 expired Dec. 31, 2011. Negotiations between the two sides have been tense,  with the city accusing the union of not showing up to the bargaining table, and the union, in turn, accusing the city of bargaining in bad faith.

On March 8, the Ontario Ministry of Labour granted the city’s request for a no board report, paving the way for a lockout or strike 12:01 a.m. March 24.

On March 13, Local 79 filed a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board, accusing the city of bargaining in bad faith.