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Ford thanks inside workers for accepting contract

The mayor believes the city will come to a deal with part-time long-term care and parks staff.

Mayor Rob Ford and Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday are commending city negotiators and the employees who ratified a new four-year contract.

“I would like to thank Toronto’s front-line workers who understand that these are very tough economic times and that the changes were needed in order for them to continue doing a great, great job for the taxpayers of this great city,” Ford said during a news conference Thursday morning. “By working together, folks, we can continue to make Toronto the best place to work, play and live.

It was a split decision among Toronto's inside workers on the city's final offer, with two of the four bargaining units rejecting the contract – setting the stage for a possible disruption of recreation services, including swimming pools and fitness programming.

The two units of CUPE Local 79 that rejected the offer are long-term care and recreation workers — all part-time. The long-term care staff are considered part of an essential service and legally not allowed to strike or be locked out. They will head to arbitration to work out a deal.

“I’m sure we’re going to come to an agreement with the part-time workers,” Ford said.

However, as many as 9,000 unionized part-time recreation workers could face a work stoppage in the near future. Precise timing of a possible strike or lockout has not been given by either side.

“We’re trying not to pick a fight,” said Local 79 spokesman Cim Nunn.

“Clearly, workers in two units didn't feel the offer was good enough. We're looking to the city ... to improve it.

Nunn said the deal takes away part-timers’ seniority and leaves them with unpredictable work schedules and, therefore, lives.

Holyday, meanwhile, said he was meeting with his labour team to plan their next move, but was happy about the progress so far.

“We look forward to four years of labour peace,” Holyday said.

“As you know, the Ford administration has a program to try to reduce the size of government and to implement efficiencies and reduce the cost of government, and this is a major step in that direction.”

CUPE Local 79's 23,000 members include civil servants, child care workers, ambulance dispatchers, parks and recreation staff, nurses and janitors.

Regardless of this latest development, the union said all Toronto inside workers would be on the job Thursday morning.

And since the other Local 79 bargaining units – which include the full-time unionized employees – did accept the city's offer, there is not expected to be any impact to the city's 52 day-care centres nor to services out of city hall such as obtaining a building permit or marriage license.

The union’s members had been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2011.

Wednesday’s vote came after tense negotiations continued past a strike or lockout deadline over the weekend.

The union insisted the offer was not a negotiated settlement and the two sides didn’t reach a tentative agreement, but rather the city pulled the plug on talks. Local 79 also said the city threatened to impose new conditions and terms on workers who rejected the offer.

“We’re glad to see that the first reaction of the city was not to impose terms or conditions or to threaten to lock out workers,” Nunn said.

Holyday insisted the city’s offer is almost the same as the contract Toronto’s outside workers, represented by CUPE Local 416, ratified last month. That deal includes a revised job security provision for workers with 15 years or more of service.

Local 79 reportedly wanted security from contracting-out for members with 10 years or more seniority. The agreement reached with Local 416 also includes a six-per-cent wage increase over the four-year term.

City council must now approve the deal ratified by Local 79’s full-time workers at a date yet to be announced. When that happens, the city will release the details of the agreement.

Meanwhile, library workers reached a tentative deal with the city on Wednesday night after contract talks broke down. They hit the picket lines on March 19. A ratification vote will take place on Thursday.marcia.chenMar 29, 2012 at 3:16 PM

Air Canada CEO defends actions with Aveos and pushes for workers to be rehired

Air Canada's chief executive says the carrier can't be blamed for the demise of maintenance firm Aveos Fleet Performance and he hopes other companies will step in to hire its terminated workers.

Calin Rovinescu told a parliamentary committee on Thursday that the heavy maintenance company — formerly a division of Air Canada — failed because it was unable to attract additional customers to diversify its revenue stream.

The country's largest air carrier spent $440 million with Aveos in the 14 months before it closed, providing 91 per cent of its work to the privately owned supplier.

Despite being owed $35 million by Aveos, Air Canada offered $15 million in emergency funding to help its former subsidiary through a court-supervised restructuring.

Rovinescu said Aveos suffered operating losses for years because of a high cost structure and an inability to be cost competitive.

"Ultimately, their unfortunate decision to terminate operations is symptomatic of those failures and not the result of any action taken or not taken by Air Canada," he told the Commons standing committee on transportation, infrastructure and communities hearing in Ottawa.

After the demise of Aveos this month, the airline sent planes to companies in Canada and the United States, including several to two Quebec repair companies.

It has also had preliminary discussions with several Canadian and foreign maintenance, repair and overhaul companies about opportunities inside the country.

Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) said there is a large pool of skilled talent that could be hired at facilities in Montreal, Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver. It urged provincial governments to help entice potential Aveos successors.

The airline said it will favour overhaul companies that keep the work in Canada and employ the skills of Canadian aviation technicians.

"The priority for us is to find local suppliers, to find global players who are interested in investing in these Canadian facilities, in these Canadian workers to continue the work in Canada," added chief operating officer Duncan Dee.

"It is not an intent of Air Canada to be sending our aircraft overseas to other places, because that's frankly an added burden on Air Canada to have to send aircraft to places to which we don't fly."

Rovinescu said he has "tremendous sympathy" for 2,600 workers who lost their jobs when Aveos abruptly closed and moved to liquidate nearly two weeks ago.

But he added the airline is fully compliant with the Air Canada Participation Act, the legislation introduced when it became a private company, because it operates its own maintenance work in the country.

"We continue to be in full compliance with the letter and the spirit of that act despite the demise of Aveos," Rovinescu said to the disbelief of some committee members who criticized him for receiving a $5-million retention bonus.

The airline expects to hire more mechanics itself but has no plans to reintegrate the employees from its former maintenance division, which was spun off in 2007, he said a day after meeting with Transport Minister Denis Lebel.

Aveos employees contend that legislation compels the airline to keep maintenance jobs in Canada. The law doesn't say who has to do the work.

The Justice Department has urged the government not to charge Air Canada.

"It is far from clear that Air Canada is in breach of its articles even though Aveos no longer provides services to Air Canada under its contracts," said a six-page legal opinion from assistant deputy minister Pierre Legault.

Part of the difficulty in proving such a case is the requirement for Air Canada to maintain "overhaul" operations, he wrote. The term can be used to apply to both heavy maintenance work done by Aveos and line maintenance performed internally by the airline's own 2,400 mechanical employees.

Even if the government was able to obtain an order against Air Canada, Aveos workers may not get their jobs back because the airline could still contract out the work, Legault said.

He added that any effort to amend the act requiring the airline to perform all maintenance and overall work in Canada would likely raise trade issues and could run afoul of NAFTA and a bilateral trade agreement with the U.S.

Opposition members of the committee accused Air Canada of "shafting" workers by its actions over more than a decade, including the decision to sell its heavy maintenance business and push employees nearly a year ago to Aveos.

"This is an act of betrayal because that's how the workers are feeling right now," said NDP member Olivia Chow.

The Conservative majority rejected an opposition motion to summon Aveos CEO Joe Kolshak to appear before the committee. The company has refused to testify and explain how its business deteriorated so much.

Pierre Poilievre, parliamentary secretary to the transport minister, said the government has sympathy for the plight of Aveos workers but has no intention of providing a bailout to a company that he said burned through $1 billion over five years and still went bankrupt.

"To pull $1 billion out of the economy to fund such a bailout would kill far more jobs than it would create."CityNews-RichardMar 29, 2012 at 3:16 PM
Exotic dancer performs at city hall

Adult entertainers are asking for bylaw amendments and one dancer provided a demonstration of what she does on the job for a city committee.

Members of the adult entertainment industry appeared before the city’s licensing and standards committee Thursday morning, including one worker who brought along a pole for a live dance demonstration.

Committee member Anthony Perruzza said exotic dancers and other representatives of the adult entertainment sector, including a lawyer and a consultant, attended the meeting asking for bylaw amendments affecting burlesque entertainers.

“Dancers came before the committee ... asking for a couple of things: one to change or at least consider changing licensing to a form of registration because … the licence is for life,” he told CityNews.

“The other thing is they want us to change the definition of what constituted touching in bars. Because now the way [the] bylaw is worded … is that if someone inadvertently bumps into a dancer and a police officer is present they could be charged.

A dancer performed a pole dance for committee members. Coun. Gloria Lindsay Luby described it as “an athletic performance.

Perruzza said the performance was “graceful.”

“It was really a gymnastics show,” he said.

Other councillors weren’t impressed.

“We've entered a new low at City Hall. An adult entertainer was just permitted to perform for the Licensing and Standards committee,” Coun. Mike Layton tweeted.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said, “this type of grandstanding isn’t appropriate for a public committee meeting.”

In terms of the requested bylaw amendments, Perruzza said dancers would rather be registered with the city, as opposed to being licensed.

“Later when you move away from [the] industry … people can go back — the licence is for life and they can see you were an adult entertainer,” he said.

Lindsay Luby said the meeting also highlighted a need for Toronto to streamline its rules for strip clubs with other municipalities in and around the GTA.

“There needs to be some kind of harmony amongst us,” she said, noting that Hamilton doesn’t require adult entertainers to be licensed, only registered.

“I’m concerned that everyone should be on the same page. There are grey areas no doubt.

The committee will wait to make a decision after a staff report on the issue comes back in the fall.erin.crigerMar 29, 2012 at 3:14 PM
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