Thursday, June 18, 2009

Toronto City Workers Resist Concessions

Support the City Workers Strike

by Farshad Azadian - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

Toronto City Workers, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) locals 79 and 416, made a strong statement that they will not accept any concessions in their ongoing bargaining with the City of Toronto.

On June 22nd the Toronto City Workers walked off the job after their employer – the City – refused to give a dignified contract and instead insisted on forcing workers to take concessions. The strike action comes a month after the 18,000 city employees represented by local 79 voted 90% in favor of a strike mandate, and where 6,000 “outdoor” workers represented by local 416 voted 89% in favor of a strike mandate.

These unions represent workers in a variety of sectors, from recreation centre workers to garbage collectors. One of the major points of dispute is the fact that the city has thus far demanded that workers take concessions in sick benefits and job security; issues that city employees are justifiably refusing to budge on. The trend to reverse the many hard-earned gains and rights of working class people is being seen across Canada, and these workers are making an important stand against that trend.

At a time when billions of our tax dollar money is being squandered by the politicians of various parties to bail out the bankers and the big auto companies, it is absolutely unforgivable that working people are facing constant attacks on their ability to live with dignity.

Undoubtedly, in the weeks and perhaps days after the strike begins, we will see immense pressure and even repression against the strikers. The recent academic workers strike at York University showed us how the police and the courts were used by the employer and the government to attack workers. Four members of the York University CUPE local 3903 were brutally arrested by cops, and the 85-day strike was put down through union-busting "back-to-work" legislation. City Workers should be prepared to play hardball should these anti-worker tactics be employed once again to repress their very legitimate concerns.

Many of these city workers live and serve in our communities, and in the event of a worker strike forced by the employer, it is important that we support and even come out to the picket lines that will be seen across our communities in the spirit of working class solidarity.