Under the current set up in the City of Toronto, a small committee (the Employee and Labour Relations Committee) has the very large power to shut down most of the City’s public services. That Committee is tasked with giving guidance and updates to the full Council on HRM and labour relations issues. However, as presented drafted, the Committee also has the power to lockout any or all of the City’s unionized workers, without putting the matter to the full Council for a vote.
This power predates the present administration. However, until the Mayors Ford were elected, the thought of a government locking out or imposing contract terms on its own workers was highly remote. Moreover, if this Committee can order a lockout without Council approval, then it can presumably also order wages and benefits of unionized workers to be cut the moment that the parties are in a legal strike/lockout position, as action that could force the workers to go on strike. Either way, whether or not their is a work stoppage in Toronto this winter rests largely in the hands of the small group of pro-Ford councillors on the Committee.
Councillor John Filion thinks thats problematic, since a lockout will have significant impacts on the city’s population. He thinks that such an important matter should go to the full elected Council, and not be decided by a small sub-committee. He filed a motion that would require a decision to lockout workers, or to unilaterally alter the terms of employment of City employees during the open period [when an employer can ignore the terms of the collective agreement and implement different terms] be made by Council, and not the Employee and Labour Relations Committee.
That motion failed in a vote this afternoon by the slimmest of margins, 18 to 19 (with 8 Councillors not voting), although I think the motion needed 2/3 to carry. Here is the motion. And here is a breakdown of how the Councillors voted.
What do you think about this?
Should the decision to lockout the City’s workforce be a matter for debate in the full elected Council, or is it fine to allow this decision to be decided by a small sub-committee, without any vote by elected officials?