Since strike began 615 union members request to go back to city jobs
By Kris Scheuer
(Written July 16 for Town Crier newspaper.)
As the city strike nears four weeks, the number of unionized employees asking to come back to work is on the rise.
On July 15, city hall indicated over 600 members of CUPE locals 416 and 79 had asked to cross the picket lines.
“We have had, as of an hour ago, 615 people request to come back to work,” city manager Joseph Pennachetti said at a July 15 press conference.
The week before on July 9, city spokesperson Rob Andrusevich told the Town Crier almost 500 strikers had filed paperwork to come back to work.
“There’s a process they have to go through so not all of them are back to work,” Andrusevich said. “We are trying to get them back in jobs that are as similar as possible to the work they were doing.”
On July 3 when the Town Crier asked Mayor David Miller, he indicated over 300 union employees were back on the job at that time.One way the city’s facilitating unionized workers’ returning to work is by having back-to-work request forms with a drop-off box at Metro Hall.
Pat Daley, a CUPE spokesperson said employees go through the city, not the unions, in order to go back to work while the strike continues.
“We have no way to back up, with evidence, the city’s numbers,” she said July 16. “I can tell you that if you accept the city’s numbers, 98 percent of (union) members have not asked to return to work.”
Daley admitted the 25-day-old strike is difficult on all union staff as they are not getting paid regular wages.
“It’s hard on everyone,” she said. “(But) we see every person who decides to go back to work prolongs the strike.”
She said a strong picket line lends more support to the union’s bargaining committee.
The picket lines are so strong in fact that CUPE local 79 has successfully stopped union members from crossing the pickets to work at a city-run social services office in Scarbrough, according to a letter posted publicly on the union’s site.