Toronto

City's outside workers could be on strike or locked out as of Feb. 27

About 5,000 outside workers at the city of Toronto could be on strike or locked out as of Feb. 27 now that the city has received a "no board" report from the Ontario labour ministry.

Labour ministry issued no board report Monday, triggering 17-day countdown

A city worker clears garbage in downtown Toronto. The city received a 'no board' report from the Ontario labour ministry on Monday, which means the city and union will in a legal position for a strike and lockout as of 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 27. (Patrick Dell/Canadian Press)

About 5,000 outside workers at the city of Toronto could be on strike or locked out as of Feb. 27 now that the city has received a "no board" report from the Ontario labour ministry.

The city said the ministry issued the report to the city on Monday in its dispute with CUPE Local 416. Negotiators for the city and union have been bargaining for more than four months, but talks have stalled.

Brad Ross, city spokesperson, said the no board report means the city and union will be in a legal position for a strike or lockout as of 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 27. He said the city is still hoping for a resolution, even though no new talks are scheduled.

"A no board report starts the clock to that 17-day countdown, " Ross said on Monday.

"Now I want to be clear that does not mean necessarily mean there will be a work stoppage. It just starts the clock to that point. We are hopeful we can reach an agreement with the union before that time."

City to reveal contingency plans

Ross said the city will soon reveal its contingency plans in the event of a work stoppage. Those plans will outline which services will be suspended due to a strike or lock out and which services will continue.

Services that could be affected include garbage collection east of Yonge Street and 10 per cent of winter maintenance operations. Garbage collection west of Yonge Street and 90 per cent of winter maintenance, which includes snow clearing, are contracted out.

"We will spell all of that out in the coming days as we approach that deadline," Ross said.

Ross said the city met with a provincially appointed conciliation officer for five days before seeking a no board report a week ago.

"The plan is to reach a negotiated agreement with our union. That has always been our plan. We want one that is fair for our employees, whom we value very much, but also one that is affordable for the people of Toronto," Ross said.

Typically, no board reports are issued within days if contract talks are at an impasse. 

Job security, wages, benefits and parental leave are outstanding issues. The city said it requested the no board report after "much consideration."

Union urges city to go back to bargaining table

Eddie Mariconda, president of CUPE Local 416, said in a news release on Monday that the city should return to the bargaining table instead of continuing on the "path to a labour dispute." He said the city is seeking "deep concessions" to union members' benefits.

"Our contract is affordable and sustainable, and we provide world class services to the people of Toronto. If they have the residents' best interests in mind, then they will come to the table, make a commitment to front-line workers and negotiate a deal," he said.

Mariconda accused the city of misleading the public on the union's position on issues and said the city has alleged that the union is "going against what was previously negotiated."

"At the end of the day, renewing our job security language costs the city nothing," he said.

The contract between the city and the union local, which represents 5,000 outside workers, expired on Dec. 31, 2019.

In January, Local 416 voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking strike action if a fair contract cannot be reached by the union and the city.

Its members work in such areas as animal services, parks and recreation outside, water, solid waste management, paramedic services and community housing.

With files from Lauren Pelley

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