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No labour disruption in Toronto, deputy mayor predicts

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday speaks to members of the news media near midnight on Monday, March 26, 2012, announcing that the city has ended negotiations with Toronto's inside workers' union.

Michelle Siu for The Globe and Mail/michelle siu The Globe and Mail

Toronto's deputy mayor is predicting inside workers will endorse the city's final contract offer on Wednesday, ending the threat of a strike or lockout shutting down vital city services.

If the take-it-or-leave-it offer was so unpalatable, CUPE Local 79 would have led its 23,000 workers to the picket line instead of the polling booth, Doug Holyday said Monday, about 12 hours after the union announced it would reluctantly put the offer to a vote without recommendation.

"I think it is very telling. They got the approval for a strike, but when we put the deal to them they didn't strike," Mr. Holyday said. "It is not such a bad deal [that]they want to strike over [it] they just didn't want to accept the responsibility of endorsing it."

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But there's no guarantee the rank and file will approve the offer, which grants workers a 6-per-cent raise over four years and guts job security for those with fewer than 15 years seniority.

If the mostly white-collar workers of Local 79 – which includes four bargaining units – turn down the proposed contract, the union said it would let the city make the next move.

Either way, a rejection would revive the possibility of a labour disruption shuttering city-run daycares, pools, community centres and municipal offices, among other services.

The vote is scheduled to take place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, with results expected late the same night or early Thursday.

A simple majority would ratify the collective agreement.

The union spent much of Monday countering the city's assertion that the two sides reached a negotiated settlement 48 hours after a strike or lockout deadline passed at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

"We were attempting to find common ground on some other matters and the city ended negotiations," said Tim Maguire, the president of CUPE Local 79. "It's important to understand what happened next is that the city issued final offers on all four collective agreements. In doing so, it indicated that these [terms]would be accepted or these [terms]would be imposed."

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The union suggested it was backed into a corner by the city's promise to unilaterally impose a new contract, as it threatened to do before reaching a negotiated settlement with 6,000 outside workers in February.

Armed with an 85-per-cent strike mandate, union leaders could have walked off the job. But they decided against it.

"Our members and this local were not looking for a conflict from the beginning of these negotiations," Mr. Maguire said. "We've committed to our members, we've committed to the public who receive the services our members deliver that we wouldn't go on strike pro-actively."

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Health reporter

Kelly Grant is a health reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

Toronto City Hall bureau chief


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