Sunday, February 14, 2016
City of Toronto Claims CUPE Benefits Proposal Would Cost $9.5 million
While the city argues the proposal from Local 416 and Local 79 to enhance benefits would cost $9.5 million, CUPE argues those numbers are “exaggerated.”
Katrina Miller, a CUPE spokesman, said Saturday the city’s cost estimates of a union proposal to beef up benefits for both inside and outside workers seems high. The city controls the figures around the benefits accounting and the union is crunching the numbers now, she said.
“We think they’re exaggerated to be honest,” she told the Sun. “But, unfortunately the city is the only one who really holds the numbers on benefits. We have a hard time checking then. We’re trying to.”
Miller said workers made concessions in 2012 which helped the city save $141 million, including $60 million in benefit costs.
“They have achieved very significant savings from these frontline workers in the last four years,” she said. “We are struck by the fact that they seem unwilling to recognize that.”
Local 416 workers could legally go on strike or be locked out by 12:01 a.m. on Friday. Just 24 hours after that deadline, Local 79 workers could legally launch a labour disruption or the city could lock them out.
Miller would not comment on the status of the talks. She confirmed there were meetings Saturday.
“Both of those bargaining committees remain ready and willing to continue all talks 24/7,” she said. “But, we’re not going to characterize what exactly those conversations are right now.”
Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong was tight-lipped about the talks but acknowledged the city is trying to find savings on benefits.
“We’ve analyzed all the suggestions the unions have made and we’re confident the approach we’re taking now is the right one,” he said. “The reality is the cost of benefits are going up every year substantially.”
Minnan-Wong says benefit costs to Local 416 jumped 12% between 2014 and 2015. In the first three quarters of 2015, benefit costs for Local 79 were up 4.75%, he said.
“Costs are simply increasing and there has to be a reconciliation of that,” he said. “We’re offering a wage increase but we’re also looking for some changes.”
Miller said the union remains optimistic that a deal can be reached. Talks could even go beyond the deadlines.
“We see no reason why that can’t happen here,” she said.
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