CUPE 905 library workers on the picket line
As of today, library workers in the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury have been on strike for 21 days – one of the longest library strikes in Ontario history.

“The reality in Bradford West Gwillimbury is that the library workers – who are almost all women – have been denied regular raises for years, while male-dominated departments and management have not. The $1.35 an hour we’re asking for is just a small step toward closing the massive gender pay gap in this town,” said Katherine Grzejszczak, president of Local 905 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Library workers voted almost unanimously to join CUPE in 2021 and are still trying to win a first collective agreement with the Town.

The Town is insisting on a five-year deal, which is highly unusual for first contracts. They normally run for two years to a maximum of three years in order to give both parties a chance to identify any issues of workability in the agreement. “We really love creating programming that engages seniors and newcomers, that brings literature and community to life for kids,” said Bailey Shaw, a member of the CUPE 905 Bargaining Committee. “But the reality is the cost of living has skyrocketed and the Mayor and Council expect us to be excellent workers, while forcing our wages to fall further behind. After all these years, after seeing half the workers quit in frustration, surely council can find the $50,000 or so a year it will take for a raise that will lift more of the women working in the library up to a real living wage.”

Over the last two years, the Town has given the library CEO raises of 5.7% and 7.85% - several times the increases being offered to frontline workers. His raises alone totaled $16,500. The worker’s ask totals roughly $50,000 a year spread across 36 workers. Town employees on the Sunshine List – the executives, senior management and workers in male-dominated departments like fire and police – who make more than $100,000 per year received average income increases of 6% last year. “We’re 20 days into the library being closed and there’s no political will from Mayor Leduc and the eight Council members to offer these women a real wage increase. It’s sexism,” said Grzejszczak. “For all the lip service about the importance of the library, Council is fine with women, whose labour provides safety to vulnerable people, to continue being paid poverty wages.”