Whitby Mayor Elizabeth Roy has announced that representatives of the Town of Whitby and CUPE 53 Local Full-time will be meeting on November 10 and 11 with support from an expert mediator.
“I am optimistic that this will move us closer to an agreement, and that this can be achieved without political interference from council,” she said.
The town’s bargaining team recently made additional changes to the town’s offer in an attempt to get a resolution. Previously the town proposed to grandfather 80 per cent of current employees, but has now upped that to 100 per cent. The town also offered an increase in personal days from three to four. For new employees or those who move into new roles, any schedule changes will be communicated with four weeks’ notice as well as consultation with the employee and union.
Strong Mayor Powers
Mayor Roy said she has received questions from Whitby residents as to whether she can use the Strong Mayor Powers granted by the province, to force an end to this labour disruption.
“These powers focus on advancing ‘prescribed provincial priorities’ namely the building of 1.5 million new residential units in Ontario by 2031. Bill 3 does not give me the ability to order the town’s unionized employees back to work or to implement a collective agreement. I’m not aware of any mayors in Ontario who have used Bill 3 to intervene in the collective bargaining process,” Mayor Roy said.
“While strong mayor powers can be far-reaching, I do not believe it is the intent of this legislation to see mayors disrupt lawful labour action or otherwise insinuate themselves into the collective bargaining process. Thank you to Whitby residents for your ongoing patience as we navigate this difficult and complex process,” she added.
Bullying, harassment and intimidation
Meanwhile, Whitby Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Matt Gaskell said he was hearing that CUPE has ramped up its tactics, including instances of intimidation towards workers, contractors, and the public.
“These tactics are unwelcome, disappointing, and unsafe. The safety of our staff, residents, and everyone working to deliver services to our community is our top priority. While it’s our full-time employees’ right to strike, bullying, harassment and intimidation are not acceptable, and I trust that the union leadership of CUPE Local 53 would agree and will take the necessary action to ensure this does not occur,” he said.
He said the town’s goal as it heads into two days of mediation with CUPE this Friday and Saturday is to reach an agreement that works for everyone.
“Our latest offer made changes to ensure zero impact to every current employee in their current position. Respecting CUPE’s concerns regarding work life balance, we increased the number of annual personal days that an employee can take from three to four. These personal days are part of the overall 18 paid sick days that all staff are provided every year,” said CAO Gaskell.
“This is over and above the considerable flexibility that is also provided through generous vacation entitlements, the ability to swap shifts, and other paid leaves, etc. Our current offer to CUPE Local 53 also includes a substantial financial proposal with a 9.5 per cent wage increase over three years, an increase to shift premiums, and significant benefit improvements which was designed to compensate CUPE for the changes sought.”
He said CUPE Local 53 responded with a counteroffer that maintains a veto power over hours of work and scheduling, and also for an additional $1.5 million in wage and benefits increases over and above what the town offered.
“That is not a fair deal for taxpayers and would cost the town – and our residents – considerably more for virtually no benefit,” the CAO pointed out.
While the CUPE Local 53 Full-time strike action continues, the town is working to expand its service delivery further to meet the needs of the community. This includes gradually reopening recreational facilities, including for organized sports; resuming council meetings; and offering yard waste drop-off and yard waste curbside collection.
For more details on the town’s current offer, visit whitby.ca/2023LabourDisruption.