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City council endorses 2 contracts for inside workers

Another rocky chapter of labour relations closed Monday with city council endorsing contracts for CUPE Local 79 full-time and some part-time workers.

Mayor Rob Ford called the endorsement “a historic day for labour peace in Toronto,” and said the deal will save taxpayers $50 million over the four-year term.

“Our front-line workers understand that times are tough out there. Even though Toronto is stronger than many global cities, our economy is still very fragile. This is not the time to ask taxpayers to pay more,” he said.

Monday’s vote passed 40-1 with Coun. Paula Fletcher casting the only dissenting vote. The deal covers 13,000 of 23,000 inside employees.

Two other groups of workers represented by the CUPE Local 79 remain in flux. About 8,600 part-time recreation workers will vote on the city’s adjusted offer Tuesday. The deal has been recommended by the union. Negotiations between the city and its 1,900 long-term care workers have gone to arbitration.

Local 79 represents civil servants, child care workers, ambulance dispatchers, parks and recreation staff, nurses and janitors.

The rights of part-time workers and job security were the main sticking points in negotiations.

In February, the city endorsed a new contract for outside workers represented by CUPE Local 416. That deal offered a six per cent wage increase. The so-called jobs-for-life provision was modified to protect workers with 15 years of service or more from contracting out.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday had said the city offered the inside workers a similar deal.

On Monday, the mayor said, “This new [CUPE Local 79] contract provides many benefits. Management and front-line staff can now work more flexibly to provide improved customer service without increasing costs. Our employees will receive modest wage increases while maintaining some of the best terms of employment anywhere in the country.”

“We’ve established a new benchmark that governments across Canada are watching as they struggle to meet their own challenges.”

Coun. Karen Stintz praised Ford’s “political will” — “if it wasn’t for that I don’t think we would be here today.”

Stintz recalled a time when Toronto was called “New York run by the Swiss.”

“Over time … I can’t pinpoint when it is that we lost that brand and I think now the opportunity before us today is to regain that brand,” she said.

Coun. Joe Mihevc praised city workers for voting in favour of a contract that offers wage increases that aren’t “consistent with the rate of inflation.”

He said his vote in favour of the contracts was “my way of saying, we were in a pinch, [workers] contributed. Now let’s find a way forward that rebuilds some of the frayed relationships between employees and employer that we’ve witnessed in the last while.”