Markham Public Library workers, members of CUPE 905, are preparing to walk off the job on February 10, 2023. The 163 librarians, library services associates, digital library specialists, and borrow services staff at Markham Public Library overwhelmingly voted against a proposed deal from the City of Markham, primarily due to insufficient wages that don’t keep up with inflation.
“We library workers are deeply committed to serving everyone, but we just want to continue to do that without worrying about how to put food on the table and pay bills,” says Technical Services Assistant Johanna Salutan. “We want to continue to enrich the community while making a fair wage.”
Markham Public Library workers make, on average, less than $30,000 per year, far less than workers in neighbouring library systems, with a third of the members making minimum wage. They have not received a wage increase since 2019. Workers are seeking a wage increase of $1.40 per hour per year. The library workers say low wages are to blame for high staff turnover rates, as workers leave Markham Public Library for better-paying positions in nearby public libraries.
“The City’s offer doesn’t reflect the value that library workers bring to the community or the realities of record high prices for basic necessities such as food, housing, and transportation,” said CUPE 905 President Katherine Grzejszczak.
After being laid off for 18 months during the pandemic, workers say they can’t keep up with the rising cost of living and will walk off the job on February 10, when they will be in a legal strike position.
“Fair wages are long overdue. Most of us are racialized women, and we would rather continue delivering the critical services that Markham residents rely on,” says bargaining committee member and library worker Jennifer Lewis-Phillips. “But if City Council won’t respect us by returning to the table with a real deal, we will go on strike.”