CUPE 79 puts end to 'work for free' with work-to-rule campaign

A work-to-rule campaign by Toronto's inside workers kept 20,000 city employees from walking off the job Monday but performing only the work they are paid to do.

No service disruption, but workers cease performing duties outside of their job descriptions

CUPE Local 79 president Tim Maguire explains why Toronto's inside workers began a work-to-rule campaign on Monday.

A work-to-rule campaign by Toronto's inside workers kept 20,000 city employees from walking off the job Monday but performing only the work they are paid to do.

CUPE Local 79 president Tim Maguire said his members regularly perform duties outside of their job descriptions and more than half regularly skip their breaks. That stopped Monday morning.

"If the photocopier breaks, they're planners, they're not photocopier technicians. Don't fix the photocopier," Maguire said.

"The city needs to respect that our workers perform an important service to Torontonians and they go above and beyond the call to ensure those services are delivered," Maguire said. "They save the city money because they do a lot of work for free."

Members of Local 79 work in community housing, community centres, arenas, child-care centres, public health offices, long-term care facilities and municipal offices, among other things. 

Local 79 member Raniesha Hemmings, who works at the North Kipling Community Centre, said most staff perform tasks outside their job descriptions. 
Raniesha Hemmings says most workers go above and beyond at the North Kipling Community Centre. But that has ended as CUPE Local 79 has begun a work-to-rule campaign. (CBC)

"If it's really raining outside, we'll help people to their cars with umbrellas. If it's snowing outside, we'll help shovel more than we're supposed to," she said. "We try to help out as much as we can."

'No sign of movement'

The union hopes the campaign will underscore the importance of city workers, but it is not planning any major service disruptions. Employees who provide essential services, such as long-term care, are not engaging in the work-to-rule campaign, Maguire said.

"We're concerned about the slow pace of these talks," Maguire told reporters when negotiations with the city stalled after two extended deadlines. "There's been no sign of movement in key areas."

Mayor John Tory says the work-to-rule campaign will do nothing to bring the two sides closer together.

"Such an escalation will not assist the efforts being made by the city and the provincial conciliators to conclude a collective agreement," he said in a written statement.
Mayor John Tory, speaking to reporters on Sunday, said he's confident that the two sides will reach a settlement that is fair to both sides. (CBC)

Sticking points in the negotiations include job security, stability and wages that aren't on par with other city workers, Macguire said.

"My experience is that most people who are out there working, whether they're in the city government, the provincial government or the private sector, when the photocopier is broken, you just un-jam it and move on," Tory said Monday.

Tory has maintained that whatever deal is reached with CUPE Local 79 will have to be similar to the deal the city struck with its 5,400 outside workers on Friday.

Local 416, which represents those workers, will vote on the deal later this week.

With files from Ali Chiasson


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