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City makes contingency plan as outside workers strike looms

Last Updated Feb 20, 2020 at 4:35 pm EDT

The city’s outside workers could go on strike next week, which could mean a number of city services will come to a halt.

On Feb. 10, the city received a “no board” report from the Ministry of Labour, which set the legal strike or lockout deadline for Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local 416 at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 27.

CUPE 416 represents about 5,000 city employees such as garbage collectors, maintenance workers and paramedics.

The two sides have been negotiating for more than four months but have yet to come up with a deal.

The city has now announced contingency plans in case of a work stoppage which could affect thousands of families.

Garbage collection east of Yonge Street will be the most impacted service, with pickup being suspended for 50,000 households. The city says it will have seven transfer stations and 11 temporary drop off depots in place.

Several other services will either be reduced or cancelled:

  • Waste collection from public city litter bins will be suspended city-wide, including in parks and public squares.
  • All regularly-scheduled city council and committee meetings will be cancelled. Twenty-four hour notice will be provided before cancellation.
  • Community and recreation centres, including pool and ice rinks will be closed.
  • City run programs like camps and drop-ins will be suspended.
  • All events and film shoots in public squares such as Nathan Phillips Square and Mel Lastman Square will have to be cancelled.
  • No new permits will be issued for wedding chambers at city hall.
  • Photography permits for city parks and other public spaces will be canceled.
  • 311 online service requests and Knowledge Base will not be available.
  • Online pet licensing will not be available. In-person and phone pet licensing will be available but might be delayed.
  • Most City of Toronto job postings and hiring will be suspended.

Services that will not be impacted include:

  • Garbage collection west of Yonge Street.
  • Toronto police, fire and paramedics
  • Seniors Services and Long-Term Care homes, as well as emergency shelters.
  • Toronto Public Health services and programs.
  • TTC and GO transit
  • Critical snow removal and winter maintenance on roads, sidewalks and bikeways.
  • Most libraries will remain open.
  • 311 services, including 24/7 telephone, email and social media will be available to respond to inquiries.
  • All child care will remain in place.
  • City parks will remain open but waste collection, snow clearing and grounds maintenance in parks will be suspended.
  • Toronto Zoo will remain open
  • The High Park Zoo and Riverdale Farm will remain open and the animals will be taken care of, however any programming will be cancelled.

Click here for a full list of city services that may be disrupted if outside workers walk off the job.

Meanwhile the city manager is assuring the public that negotiations are ongoing.

“We certainly have tremendous respect for the men and women of 416. They do an incredibly important job for us and so needless to say we take this process that we’re in incredibly seriously,” said Chris Murray. “There are important outstanding issues however … job security, wages, benefits and parental leave are the four that tend to be the focus right now. More than 50 other issues have been addressed prior to where we are today”

The union’s spokesperson, however, criticized the city’s approach, saying instead of this contingency plan, they should be focused on avoiding a work stoppage altogether.

“How does the city manager stand up there and say the city respects its workers and looks out for the best interests of residents when they have been driving these talks toward a deadline and a dispute from the beginning?” said Eddie Mariconda, President of Local 416, in a statement.

“My goal is to get a deal, but I’m not encouraged by what I heard today … based on what I saw from the City today, it’s not clear to me they are equally committed to doing the work it will take to find solutions. I want to assure the residents of Toronto that if there is a stoppage it will be because of the City, not the union.”

Earlier in the day Mayor Tory called the contingency plan “the responsible thing to do” but noted he hopes it wont be necessary.