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Split vote from inside workers on city's final offer

CUPE Local 79 president Tim Maguire announcing vote results on city's contract offer, March 29, 2012. CITYNEWS

It was a split decision among Toronto’s inside workers on the city’s final contract offer, with two of the four bargaining units rejecting the contract setting the stage for a possible disruption of recreation services, including swimming pools and fitness programming.

The two units of CUPE Local 79 that rejected the offer are the long-term care homes and services workers and part-time recreation employees. The long-term care staff are considered an essential service and legally not allowed to strike or be locked out. They will head to arbitration to work out a deal.

However, as many as 9,000 unionized part-time recreation workers could face a work stoppage in the near future. Precise timing of a possible strike or lockout has not been given by either side.

“The members have spoken,” Local 79 president Tim Maguire told a news conference early Thursday morning. The results were announced around 2:25 a.m. Thursday.

“The employer should very seriously consider its options. Our preference would be that we return to the bargaining table and that the employer would meet with us in finding solutions to the outstanding matters,” Maguire said.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday told CityNews later Thursday morning that he was meeting with his labour team to plan his next move.

Holyday is expected to hold a news conference before noon.

“Great news that full-time workers and part-time workers have ratified their agreement,” he told CityNews. “They still have one of the best labour contracts in the country.”

CUPE Local 79’s 23,000 members include civil servants, child care workers, ambulance dispatchers, parks and recreation staff, nurses and janitors.

Regardless of this latest development, the union has said that all of Toronto’s inside workers will be on the job on Thursday morning.

And, since the other Local 79 bargaining units  which include the full-time unionized employees did accept the city’s offer, there is not expected to be any impact to the city’s 52 day-care centres nor to services out of city hall such as obtaining a building permit or marriage license.

The union has been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2011.

Wednesday’s vote came after tense negotiations continued past a strike or lockout deadline over the weekend.

The union insists the offer is not a negotiated settlement and the two sides haven’t reached a tentative agreement, claiming the city pulled the plug on talks. Local 79 also said the city threatened to impose new conditions and terms on workers who rejected the offer.

Holyday insists the city’s offer is almost the same as the contract Toronto’s outside workers, represented by CUPE Local 416, ratified last month. That deal includes a revised job security provision for workers with 15 years or more of service.

Local 79 reportedly wants security from contracting-out for members with 10 years or more seniority. The agreement reached with Local 416 also includes a six-per-cent wage increase over the four-year term.

“In both cases it leaves the workers with one of the best labour agreements in all of Canada, private or public,” Holyday said Monday.

Last week, city manager Joe Pennachetti outlined the city’s contingency plans in the event of a labour disruption, which would see daycare and recreation centres closed.

Meanwhile, library workers reached a tentative deal with the city on Wednesday night after contract talks broke down.  They hit the picket lines on March 19. A ratification vote will take place on Thursday.