Canada: Toronto city workers show the way forward

Defend the right to strike against attacks on pay and conditions

Since midnight 22 June, 24,000 Toronto city workers, both indoor and outdoor, have been on strike. Garbage collection, day care centres, swimming pools, community centres, water and sewer works and some libraries are just some of the services which have been stopped during the strike.

CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) members are frustrated by 6 months of negotiations over a new contract which includes issues over job security, seniority and a proposal by the city to scrap employees’ ability to bank sick days and cash them out at retirement.

“After six months at the bargaining table, the city has not heard the message from our members that they must be treated as fairly as all other unionised workers who provide public services to the people of Toronto,” said Mark Ferguson, president of CUPE 416.

“This city cannot treat their direct employees, our members, like second-class citizens,” said Ann Dembinski, president of CUPE 79, representing about 18,000 inside workers. “We had two choices – roll over and play dead or stand up and fight for our rights.”

The city is under increasing pressure to resolve the strike, with rising summer temperatures and garbage piling up on the streets of Toronto.

"Bad timing"?

Accusations of the strike being ’bad timing’ due to the current economic recession are a lame attempt at trying to take support away from the striking city workers who have every right to fight for better pay and conditions. An example of this was the mayor, David Miller who was quoted as saying; “[the union] is looking to settlements from the past. It’s not the past…The world changed with the financial crisis."

This strike has helped to provide confidence to other groups of workers also fighting for better workplace conditions. Over the last few months there have been a number of public sector worker strikes throughout Canada.

After 15 weeks on strike, Windsor city CUPE members have seem to have reached a tentative agreement over issues including cuts to retirement benefits. British Columbia ambulance paramedics have now been on strike for 114 days, since 1 April, over pay and conditions.

The financial crisis is leaving workers to pick up the tab to try to pull the economy out of recession thorough taxpayers’ money being used to bail-out numerous big companies and banks. Workers cannot be told they have no right to fight back at low pay and attacks on working conditions. It is vital that media and employers’ propaganda arguing otherwise is fought against. If one section of workers’ pay and conditions gets attacked over the issue of the economic crisis, it opens the door for all other workers to be attacked for the same reasons. These workers’ struggles should be supported by all.

Messages of support for the Toronto city workers can be sent to both CUPE local 416 and CUPE local 79 at:

Tel: (001) 416-968-7721 Fax: (001) 416-968-7829



and CUPE local 79 at:

Phone: (001) 416 977-1629

Fax: (001) 416 977-9546



Ambulance Paramedics of BC

#2270 – 21331 Gordon Way

Richmond, BC, Canada V6W 1J9

Phone: 604 273-5722

Fax: 604 273-5762

Toll Free: 866 273-5766 (In BC Only)

Toll Free Fax: 1-866-273-5762 (In BC Only)

Web Site:


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