Retail Workers Win the Day - City Council Votes in Favour of Maintaining Statutory Holidays - Industrial Jobs Recognized as Priority in Two Other Key Votes

November 29, 2012, 9:15 AM EST

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In a vote closely watched by thousands of retail workers across the city, Toronto City Council voted in favour of keeping stores closed on statutory holidays. City Council voted 36 to 7 in favour of keeping stores closed on statutory holidays yesterday evening.

"The idea that all people, regardless of their job, need time to spend with their families really resonated with city councillors right across the political spectrum," said CAW Local 414 President Christine Connor.  "Retail workers are among the most vulnerable in our city, working erratic shifts at all hours of the day and night. Last night they found some unlikely allies at City Hall."

"Eliminating stat holidays should never have been raised in the first place," Connor said. "If retail businesses want to improve competitiveness they shouldn't be doing that on the backs of this city's most vulnerable workers."

Connor said statutory holidays provide the only guaranteed time off the job for retail workers, many of whom face constant fluctuations in shift schedules and other precarious working conditions.

The CAW, along with other retail worker unions and organizations, initiated a campaign to ensure retail workers would not lose their nine statutory holidays. The efforts were also aided by a number of store owners and companies who also did not want to see stores open on statutory holidays - days which would bring in little profit, at a high cost to staff.

In 2010, the City of Toronto undertook an effort to establish a long-term policy dictating the rules for holiday shopping for local retailers. The original proposal was to eliminate all nine statutory holidays and was billed as a move to improve the competitiveness of local businesses. CAW Local 414 represents approximately 6,000 retail workers across Toronto.

The CAW was also successful in two other key votes in maintaining industrial jobs in the city. The application to rezone the area near the Toronto Nestle chocolate plant on Sterling Road was rejected, with councillors voting 31 to 1 to preserve the area around Nestle as a commercial zone, instead of changing it to a residential area for condo development. There was great concern that the rezoning of the surrounding land for condos would be the beginning of the demise of the century old facility.  The Nestle plant produces chocolate bars such as Aero, Coffee Crisp, Kit Kat and Smarties among others.

The third vote involved a motion to force a wind down of the GE Hitachi facility located at 1025 Lansdowne Avenue. The wind down proposed to take place over the next five years was rejected by two thirds of the vote. The issue will now be referred to the Planning and Urban Growth Committee for further discussion. This facility manufactures natural uranium pellets which supplies 53 per cent of Ontario's energy.

Both groups of workers are represented by CAW Local 252.

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