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City, workers still 'far apart' on key issues as strike looms: Union pres.

Last Updated Feb 11, 2016 at 6:48 pm EST

With a possible strike looming, the city’s inside and outside workers are still struggling to find common ground.

The deadline for a strike or lockout is Feb. 19 for outside workers and Feb. 20 for inside workers.

Tim Maguire, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79, which represents city inside workers, told the media on Thursday talks between both sides are continuing.

“While there has been some progress in some areas, we still remain far apart on the key issues,” he explained. “There has been no movement on the issue of reversing stability for many of our frontline workers.”

Maguire said the city is proposing a destructive set of cuts but the unions have put together a joint proposal that, they believe, will save money and jobs.

“Although there are deep cuts, concessions, at the table, we think we’ve provided a way for the local and the city to show Torontonians that we’re working collaboratively to get a settlement within that period of time.”

However, in a letter to city councilors, Mayor John Tory called the proposals to the union “fair.”

“The City’s proposals to the union are fair and in keeping with those settlements that have been made by other public sector employers throughout the country,” the letter reads. “They include wage increases over the course of the agreement and language changes that will help us provide city services in a more effective manner in areas such as mobility of the workforce, stability in the cost of benefits, reduction in absenteeism and improved scheduling for part-time workers.”

Last week the city was granted a no-board report from the Ministry of Labour for talks with outside workers.

The city’s initial request for a no-board report prompted Local 79 to request its own no-board report against the city.

CUPE negotiator Matt Alloway said there’s still time to get a deal.

“We’re going to do whatever we can and will continue to avail our selves to the city. We want to achieve a fair agreement for our members and if it takes going beyond that period we’re willing to do that,” he said.

Should there be a strike, the city said it has a contingency plan in place that “addresses the operation of key city services in the event of a labour disruption.”

A strike would see more than 28,000 city of Toronto employees off the job at the same time.

Outside workers include garbage crews, water and parks staff while CUPE Local 79 members work in all city divisions including public health, city run daycares, recreation and community centres.

Negotiations with the city and both inside and outside workers began in October 2015 and both contracts expired on Dec. 31.