Toronto unveils contingency plan for potential labour disruption involving outside workers

The City of Toronto is preparing for a possible labour disruption involving thousands of its outside workers, whose jobs range from garbage and recycling collection to water treatment, road maintenance and snow clearing.

The City announced its contingency plan on Thursday, saying some services would be reduced or suspended, and some meetings and events would be cancelled if an agreement is not reached with the approximately 5,000 employees represented by CUPE Local 416.

The workers have been without a contract since December 2019.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said although he remains hopeful that both sides will come to a settlement, if the labour dispute is not resolved, City staff have put a plan in place.

“They’ve done a thorough job of making sure that, to the extent humanly possible, we continue with city services if there is a work stoppage,” said Tory.

The most visible impacts would be the suspension of garbage, recycling, and organics collection east of Yonge Street, as well as from public parks and litter bins city-wide.

There could also be delays to curbside garbage collection west of Yonge.

The City said residents should properly separate and store waste. If labour is disrupted for longer than one week, temporary garbage drop-off sites will be opened from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, and will be cleared and cleaned routinely.

All recreation centres including pools, arenas, outdoor ice rinks and fitness centres will be closed, and City-operated programming including camps, classes and drop-in clubs will be cancelled.

Parks will remain open, but the City warned visitors to exercise caution when walking in areas that could be icy, as some snow clearing and grounds maintenance will be impacted.

There will also be limited access to civic centres including Metro Hall and City Hall.

Non-emergency Toronto Animal Services operations will be suspended, and animal shelter locations and hours will be reduced.

The City said longer wait times should be expected for many administrative services, and some will be suspended.

Toronto paramedics are a part of the union, but they are essential services and are not permitted to strike. Other ambulance staff, like mechanics, would be allowed to take part in job action.

Toronto police, fire services, TTC, and Toronto water operations will not be affected.

After five days of conciliation, the City and CUPE Local 416 weren’t able to come to an agreement over key contract issues including job security, wages, parental leave and benefits.

While both sides could prompt a work stoppage by Feb. 27 — employees will be able to take job action or the City could lock them out — they could still opt to carry on bargaining.

“We’re going to be meeting through the weekend with the CUPE union involved,” said Mayor John Tory.

“Every effort will be made to reach a settlement that is fair to the workers but also fair to the people who pay the bills, which are the citizens of Toronto.”

The City’s roughly 20,000 unionized inside workers are also without a contract after it expired at the end of December.

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