Open Letter: "Where the right to strike is wrong" from CFIB's Swift

    TORONTO, June 19 /CNW/ -

    Dear Premier McGuinty and Mayor Miller:

    I write, on behalf of CFIB's 4,000 small and medium-sized business
members in the City of Toronto, to express outrage at the threatened labour
disruption on the part of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) locals 416
and 79, and to demand your prompt intervention to ensure public services are
provided at fair cost to beleaguered taxpayers.
    This is just the latest, atrocious example where the 'right to strike' is
wrong. As you both well know, the impact of strikes in public services is felt
almost entirely by the general public, not by the two sides at the bargaining
table. Small business owners, their employees and customers - Torontonians
generally - are left with no alternatives when denied municipal services for
which they pay dearly in taxes. This situation absolutely has to be corrected.
    It is not as though this potential work stoppage is aimed at improving
working conditions for those at an unfair disadvantage. Toronto's CUPE workers
currently enjoy contracts which, if described as generous, would be seriously
understating the case. Precious few private sector employees can even dream of
such rich benefits. According to existing collective agreements, members of
the two locals are presently covered for 100 per cent of the cost of
prescription drugs, hospitalization, dental, group life insurance, long-term
disability plan, etc., plus unparalleled benefits in other areas. The list
goes on, and can be viewed in full at the following website:
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    CFIB's latest Wage Watch study, based on 2006 Census data, shows that
municipal employees in Toronto receive on average almost 12 per cent more in
annual salary than their same-job counterparts in the private sector. Add in
the much higher benefits and shorter work-weeks, and the Toronto municipal
employee compensation advantage balloons to over 35 per cent.
    Presently, Toronto taxpayers, both residents and businesses, are being
taken advantage of in two ways: firstly, for being saddled with the already
excessive cost of generous wages and lavish benefits enjoyed by municipal
workers, and secondly, for being held hostage to the union's demands to
improve upon those generous labour contracts, and retain one absolutely
out-of-touch ridiculous provision: bankable sick days.
    The situation with the sick pay issue is sickening. CUPE Toronto members
are entitled to bank up to 18 sick days per year, and cash them out for up to
six months of pay upon resigning or retiring. The cost is $250 million this
year alone, and the cumulative future liabilities on this item are horrendous.
Although in years past these outrageous bankable sick day plans existed
elsewhere in the municipal sector, they were heavily and justifiably
criticized and were mostly eliminated.
    There is no question that CUPE's demands pose a significant financial
strain on the city's budget. What is more troubling is that this display of
union muscle is happening during an economic recession, and in a year when the
City felt compelled to increase property taxes, extract more money via new
taxes (the municipal land transfer tax and the personal vehicle tax), and
raise user fees to balance its books just for the time being. The union's
apparent sense of entitlement to a disproportionate share of the public purse
during these economically troubled times is appalling.
    I urge you to prevent this unjustifiable work stoppage. Further, I urge
you to move to expand the list of 'essential services' for which strikes
cannot and will not be tolerated. It's high time elected representatives stood
up for average taxpayers instead of pampered public servants.


    Catherine Swift
    President and CEO
    Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)


For further information:

For further information: or to arrange an interview with Catherine
Swift, contact Gisele Lumsden at (416) 222-8022

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