Posts Tagged ‘strike

“John Filion was right”

- February 3rd, 2012

Councillor John Filion

Councillor John Filion (Toronto Sun file photo)

The city is less than 48 hours away from a 12:01 a.m. Sunday deadline when both the city or the union could legally launch a labour disruption.

So far, CUPE Local 416 hasn’t had a strike vote so if there is a work stoppage this Super Bowl weekend, it will be a city initiated lockout.

Both sides weren’t saying much Thursday.

Local 416 president Mark Ferguson released an optimistic sounding statement saying he wouldn’t be speaking to the media because negotiators were “making significant progress toward successfully concluding an agreement.”

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, chairman of the employee and labour relations committee, spoke with reporters and was less optimistic about progress at the bargaining table so far but hopeful the pressure of the Sunday deadline would help hammer out a deal.

But there is another option that could happen Sunday.

When the “no board” report period (a 17-day countdown to when either side could legally strike/lockout) expires the city could to impose new terms and conditions of employment, something that the union has acknowledged could force them to go on strike.

Which brings me to Councillor John Filion.

Last year, Filion – an avowed non-fan of Mayor Rob Ford – moved a motion to strip the right to launch a labour disruption from the employee and labour relations committee.

At the time, talk of a city lockout was swirling so much of the focus on Filion’s motion was on its implications on a lockout. If approved,  council would have been able to start a lockout, not the Ford-controlled committee.

But the motion had a second part. It also asked to take away the power to change the collective agreement from the committee and give it to council.

When I interviewed Filion at the time, he stressed the move was anti-Ford or pro-union, it was simply ensuring a shutdown of city services was in the hands of council, not a select few.

He was also focused on the second part of the motion.

Here’s the 2nd part of the motion: A requirement for Council approval for any unilateral change  in terms or conditions of employment set out in the existing contract

Filion stressed tinkering with the collective agreement could be another way to launch a labour disruption.

If the committee wanted to, it could make changes that were incendiary enough to force a strike. Handy if you want to force a labour disruption now instead of a summer strike but you also don’t want to look like you’re locking out employees.

Filion’s motion was buried by Ford’s executive committee. He also lost a bid to revive it at council.

I didn’t think about it again until it came up in conversation recently in my office.

In the lead up to this labour showdown, I asked one councillor about the city’s plans this round of negotiations. Being a good councillor, the councillor swore up and down councillors couldn’t tell me anything.

But as the councillor left, I was told two things.

“John Filion was right,” the councillor said.

“Lockout?” I asked.

(The councillor shook their head)

“Re-read his motion, it had two parts,” the councillor said.

Less than 48 hours until we find out if John Filion really was right.