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Rest of City Workers Join Toronto Strike

July 05, 2002|From Reuters

TORONTO — This metropolis, already sweltering through a heat wave among mounds of uncollected garbage, was dealt another blow Thursday when its remaining city workers walked off the job, creating the largest municipal strike in Canadian history.

The labor disruption comes at the height of the tourist season in the country's largest city.

Citing failed negotiations over job security, more than 15,000 of the city's employees who work indoors walked off the job Thursday morning. They joined almost 7,000 outdoor workers, including garbage collectors, who went on strike more than a week ago.

In Toronto, full-time permanent city workers in unions are guaranteed lifetime employment after 10 years on the job. Workers want that term reduced to six years.

The expanded strike has shut down public swimming pools, day care centers and animal shelters, and will curtail public health services such as restaurant inspections and water testing at beaches.

"We have made every effort to negotiate collective agreements with the City of Toronto," Ann Dembiniski, president of a local chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said in a news release.

Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman told a news conference Thursday that he was upset by the effect the strike was having on the city's residents. But he gave no indication that the two sides were close to a resolution.

"The people of Toronto feel the union has nothing to complain about and should get back to work," Lastman said.

Lastman also said he would have no objection if city staff were legislated back to work by the Ontario provincial government, adding that legislation has been drafted.

There is speculation that the province would force workers back if the strike poses a public health threat.

Dr. Sheela Basrur, the city's medical officer of health, said her office had already identified sites where it was critical that action be taken.

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