Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

March 23, 2009 17:32 ET

City Unions Call Wage Freeze Wrong Remedy for Toronto's Economic Ills

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 23, 2009) - Imposing a wage freeze on Toronto's non-union employees is the wrong remedy for economic ills caused by the current recession, say the leaders of the city's largest unions.

"Attacking the wages of City employees, union or non-union, is not the right way to help get us through and out of the recession," said Mark Ferguson, president of the Toronto Civic Employees Union, CUPE Local 416. "Public services have a critical role to play in recovery, but not through wage erosion."

Ferguson and Ann Dembinski, president of CUPE Local 79, have been with their negotiating committees at their respective bargaining tables with the City for several weeks. With thousands of members who contribute to the community and the economy both through their work and their spending, the two leaders say they are fortunate to be in a position where they have the right to negotiate terms and conditions of their collective agreements.

"We are hopeful that we'll find resolutions to difficult issues facing the parties in this round of bargaining and we continue to work toward a negotiated settlement," said Dembinski.

As in the early 1990s, one of the major pressures on the city budget will be the growing numbers of residents forced to turn to social assistance as jobs are lost. It is wrong for the city to suggest that savings from freezing non-union wages would go to cover social assistance costs, pitting one group of city employees against unemployed workers.

"The real travesty is that so few people in Toronto are eligible for employment insurance benefits, even though they have been paying into the fund for years, and that provincial and federal governments have refused to properly fund municipalities, forcing them to nickel-and-dime frontline workers," said Dembinski. She and Ferguson agreed that rather than trying to force public sector workers to pay for this and other recession-related problems, governments should be working to fix the employment insurance problem. They should also examine the causes of the economic downturn and focus on reforms designed to prevent international financial giants from causing another global crisis, Ferguson said.

"Our members have just started to feel like they were finally catching up after the restraint imposed during the last recession and annual inflation," Ferguson said. Added Dembinski: "Now is not the time to take even more money out of our local economy by taking it out of the pockets of City employees, unionized or not."

Contact Information

  • CUPE Communications
    Pat Daley
    (416) 616-6142