Councillor Josh Matlow

National Post: Councillors lose bid to transfer approval power to council for city worker lockout

December 1, 2011


A bid to give city council the final say on locking out municipal employees failed to gain enough support at City Hall on Thursday.


Councillors John Filion and Josh Matlow sought to strip the lockout power away from Mayor Rob Ford’s handpicked employee and labour relations committee, as the city approaches what many consider to be an inevitable standoff between unions and the administration. The contracts of about 28,000 city workers expire in the new year.


Mr. Filion and Mr. Matlow want to insert a clause that would require council approval for a lockout and any “material change” to the terms and conditions of an existing contract. Their motion required two- thirds support to be debated, and lost on an 18 to 19 vote. That punts it to the Mayor’s executive committee, which will certainly quash it.


“It’s hard to fight the union when some of the union’s top representatives are sitting right on council,” an exasperated Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said after the vote. “They say this is not pro-union, well, what the heck do you call it? Why do they want to interfere with negotiations and why do they want to interfere with a process that has gone on here since 1998, when they never, ever objected to it before.”


He said anyone who has concerns about the process can voice them at the employee and labour relations committee, which he chairs.


“Nothing is going to be done in a closet anywhere, and it’s certainly not our intent to lock anybody out. We’ve never talked about a lockout, we hope to negotiate a fair and square contract and that’s our goal,” said Mr. Holyday.


Mark Ferguson, president of CUPE Local 416, which represents about 6,000 outside city workers, maintains there is a “very real possibility” of city-imposed labour strife. “We hope that that is not the case,” he said. “But at the same time the parties are extremely far apart.”


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