City hall and CUPE come to an agreement, avoid a work stoppage and live happily ever after (only not really)

City hall and CUPE come to an agreement, avoid a work stoppage and live happily ever after (only not really)

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Following months of public bickering, negotiating through the media and much sabre rattling, the discussions between CUPE Local 416 and the city, which everybody expected to result in a work stoppage, are over. The details of the agreement have yet to be released, but both Doug Holyday and Rob Ford are heralding the deal as a victory for the taxpayer. And given union president Mark Ferguson’s defeatist language in the wake of the all-night bargaining session, it seems that in the end the city did come out on top.

From the National Post:

This has been a rancorous round of bargaining between the City and CUPE Local 416, which represents about 6,000 municipal employees. The rhetoric reached a fever pitch at points, with the union accusing the Ford administration of seeking to gut its collective agreement, and city officials insisting that changes are necessary to help it better manage, and afford, its workforce. At issue was not how much employees get paid, but terms in the contract that make it difficult for the city to contract out services, change shift schedules and redeploy workers when jobs are cut. Mayor Rob Ford has said he wants to trim 7,000 jobs from a civil service that is 50,000 strong. The offer his negotiators made public on Friday sought to rein in the so-called “jobs for life” clause by limiting the number of employees who can’t lose their jobs due to contracting out or technological changes to those with 22 years seniority.

With the deadline looming, and no deal in sight, the Ford administration threatened on Friday to impose new work conditions on outside workers if an agreement was not struck by 12:01.

The take it or leave it ultimatum appears to have reinvigorated talks, with both parties bargaining hard all day Saturday and through the night.

Once talks were wrapped up the following morning, Ferguson told the assembled media that the union had to make “numerous concessions” and that the protracted process was “one of the toughest labour negotiations in Canadian history.” His comments, though, aren’t particularly surprising. CUPE came to the bargaining table dragged down by lingering public resentment over the 2009 strike, and it probably couldn’t have afforded the damage that walking off the job would further inflict on its image. For his part, Ford scored points with his core constituents as a tough union buster while avoiding angering the rest of the city by contributing in any way to a work stoppage. Christopher Hume points out that the mayor will likely have to justify some of the concessions to his most loyal supporters. Still, from the start the battle was Ford and Co.’s to win. And with the dust starting to settle, it looks like that’s exactly what they did.

• Mayor Rob Ford vs. unions: Workers relieved as tentative deal reached [Toronto Star]
Hume: Hardcore Ford supporters will be irked by city labour deal [Toronto Star]
• City of Toronto and union deserve credit for compromise deal [Toronto Star]
Levy: Union bullies yield to city [Toronto Sun]
Tentative deal reached in City labour dispute [National Post]
City of Toronto, outside workers’ union reach tentative deal [CityNews]