The Toronto Public Library (TPL) Workers Union (CUPE Local 4948) has requested the Ministry of Labour issue a “no board” report on its contract negotiations with the Toronto Public Library Board.
Maureen O’Reilly, president of Local 4948, said the union made the no board request because negotiations had reached an impasse. Despite the presence of a conciliator, the employer has not shown any interest in substantive negotiations leading to a collective agreement that would ensure stability and protect the library services Toronto residents depend on.
“It’s our members who deliver those services. And our members value the services they deliver just as much as the public does,” said O’Reilly. “But it’s also our members being cut from budgets, and now the Library Board is seeking massive concessions from their contract.
This threatens the quality of remaining jobs, and the conditions for those doing them; and that further threatens the quality of service. We are being stretched thin. If the Board values public library services, they will remove the concessions, and negotiate a fair deal, so we can assure the public that workers have secured the sustainable conditions they need to provide the best library services on the continent.”
The Toronto Public Library is the most highly-used public library system in the world, and its staff face many unique issues in negotiating their contract, which expired January 1 of this year.
- Even though public support from across the city avoided branch closures and cuts to open hours, deep cuts were made to staff. The TPL lost 107 positions – resulting in a 17 per cent cut to staff since amalgamation, even though usage has increased 29 per cent in the same time. One million more people made use of Toronto’s public libraries in 2011 than in the previous year.
Three quarters of the TPL workforce are women. Half of employees are now part-time, and the TPL is relying more on part-time work and check-out machines. More work being done for less reward reduces quality of life for staff, which reduces quality of service for the public. There could not be a worse time to strip away workplace protections and make it harder for this growing pool of precarious employees to do their jobs.
“Our amazing public library is unique in the world,” said O’Reilly. “And our workers are in a unique position, with unique concerns. This request is a common precautionary measure to make sure that it’s these unique circumstances – and not a central ideology coming from City Hall – that are at the centre of discussions.”
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