March break camps at risk as strike deadline looms for Toronto’s inside workers

March break camps at risk as strike deadline looms for Toronto’s inside workers

Child care centres and March break camps will close if the city of Toronto and its 24,000 inside workers fail to strike a deal by Friday night, although the two sides can agree to continue negotiating past the deadline set by the province.

On Monday, the city released its contingency plans for a labour disruption, which could begin as early as 12:01 a.m. Saturday. That’s when members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79 will be in a position to legally strike and the city will be able to lock them out.

The two parties have been bargaining for three months. Negotiations between the city and its 5,000 outside workers concluded with a deal late on Feb. 28 after the two sides obtained a two-day extension to a deadline set by the province. That deal was approved by union members and city council last week.

“A work stoppage would have a significant effect on city programs and services,” said city manager Chris Murray, adding that the upcoming March break “certainly adds pressure” to the situation.

He said that the two sides are focused on a resolution.

He added that the talks are centred on many of the same issues in play during negotiations with outside workers, such as job protection and benefits.

Services that would be affected by a work stoppage include:

  • The city’s 47 child care centres, which provide services for 2,000 children, would be closed, as would all city-operated early learning centres.

  • All meetings and programming, including March Break camps at all city recreation centres would be cancelled and the recreation centres closed. Greenhouses and conservatories would be closed along with pools, fitness centres, ski hills and some arenas and outdoor ice rinks.
  • After-school recreation care programming and March break camps at Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board locations would be suspended.
  • Noncritical Toronto Public Health initiatives would be suspended, but COVID-19 activities would continue.
  • Access to city civic centres, including Metro Hall and City Hall, would be limited and city administrative services, including permitting and licensing, would be suspended or delayed.
  • Bylaw enforcement and investigation services would continue for emergency orders only, and building inspections would only be done for emergency cases. Building permits for critical, large-scale public infrastructure projects might be issued. City planning services would be suspended, except for large-scale or time-sensitive projects.
  • City council and committee meetings would be cancelled.
  • There would be no effect on emergency responders, long-term care facilities, the Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto Community Housing and Toronto Water operations. Court proceedings would continue.

Murray said management will be deployed, where possible, to provide some services.

The president of the union representing the inside workers said Monday that the city needs to shift its focus from contingency plans to the bargaining table.

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“The best possible contingency plan is to negotiate a fair contract,” said David Mitchell, president of CUPE Local 79, in a written statement.

The local represents full time and part-time city employees, recreation workers and long-term care workers.

Francine Kopun

Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF

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