Toronto Public Library workers, members of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union (TPLWU), CUPE Local 4948 have voted overwhelmingly to strike, giving their bargaining committee an 86 per cent strike mandate.
“We have been negotiating with the Library since April and have not been able to come to a fair agreement. We want to maintain the kind of high quality community-based public library services our patrons have come to expect, and at the same time ensure that all library workers have good jobs”, said Maureen O’Reilly, spokesperson for TPLWU and Chair of the Bargaining Committee for Local 4948.
“We believe that in this round of bargaining, the Toronto Public Library is at a crossroads,” said Maureen O’Reilly. “The Toronto Public Library is relying more and more on part-time work and self check-out machines at the expense of a well-trained professional workforce and quality service. Library workers need good secure full-time jobs just as much as our communities need great public libraries.”
Almost 50% of the workforce is part-time with fewer benefits. It takes a library worker on average five to six years to get a full-time job at the Toronto Public Library. Recent trends in the direction of public library services show little sign of progress.
“There has been a worrisome shift in the direction of local community-based library services at The Toronto Public Library in the last few years. More and more, the Toronto Public Library has been looking to corporate models of delivering public library service developed in the context of massive cuts to public libraries in the United States. This has had a very negative impact on the 2400 predominantly female workers of the Toronto Public Library,” said Maureen O’Reilly.
The TPLWU has been in conciliation since August and still has three dates left to meet with the conciliation officer to come to an agreement.
TPLWU Local 4948 believes a made-in-Toronto solution based on good jobs and quality service is possible. “We will do everything we can to negotiate a fair settlement without a work stoppage. We hope the Toronto Public Library Board will do the same,” said Maureen O’Reilly.