Ontario premier has no intention of enacting back-to-work legislation as city workers’ strike eclipses 2002 work stoppage
The city of Toronto is dealing with a city workers’ strike that has stretched into its third week and the Ontario government has no plans to step in any time soon.
Close to 24,000 city workers, including garbage collectors, child-care workers, parks staff and clerks, went on strike June 22 after talks with city officials failed to produce an agreement by the deadline set by the two unions representing inside and outside workers. The disagreements stem over the city’s attempt to get the unions to agree to give back some of their negotiated benefits the city said it can no longer afford during the recession. One of the major issues is the ability of union members to bank unused sick-leave days and take them all just before retirement. The unions are also looking for wage increases similar to those given to police officers and firefighters.
In 2002, city workers went on strike for 16 days until the Ontario government legislated them back to work due to concerns over citizens’ health from the growing piles of garbage in the city. However, this time is different.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who supported the 2002 back-to-work legislation as leader of the opposition, said there had been no such advisory so far. Therefore, the government’s preference is to let the collective bargaining process continue naturally.
McGuinty encouraged the two sides to continue negotiation “around the clock” until they reached an agreement.
“They’ve got themselves into this and now they have a responsibility to get themselves out of this,” McGuinty told reporters at an event in Toronto. “It’s important that we allow the process to unfold.”
City workers in Windsor are also on strike. That work stoppage has continued for nearly three months without any intervention from the provinical government.