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With employers increasing the use of casual, relief and temporary workers - forcing mostly young and racialized workers in all sectors into low-wage, precarious employment without benefits - it’s time for the CUPE to mount a campaign for full-time permanent jobs, delegates decided.

If those conditions weren’t bad enough, many workplaces see daily member-to-member harassment, mostly because of shift distribution, said Veriline Howe of CUPE 2191, the local that submitted Resolution 129. With the stress of low wages and the demands of working multiple jobs, part-time workers are more likely to cross picket lines and less likely to attend union meetings, she said. That’s a big problem when two-thirds of the membership are casual workers.

“It’s reaching epidemic proportions,” said Sheryl Burns, CUPE 1936. “Employers avoid paying benefits and ensure wages stay lower. It’s also a way to create a crisis in a sector and then move to privatize.”

Employers are clearly trying to prevent the unionization of part-time and casual workers, said Helen Fetterley from the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions. CUPE 2816 has had to go to the labour board over a vote by part-timers because the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto is now claiming the number of workers is higher than the union thought. Meanwhile, the ballot boxes are sealed and the workers remain without the benefits of union representation.

Burnaby, B.C. library worker Sarah Bjorknas, CUPE 1936, issued a challenge to the whole union to think of ways to engage part-time workers because of the “age gap” in leadership and staffing. With the demands of working two or more jobs, part-timers do not have the time or security available to many full-time workers to be activists in their locals.