Things haven’t been too great for our Mississauga librarians. With almost everything going digital and with the introduction of self-checkouts, some librarians have been let go while others have had their hours drastically cut.
“What was previously the job of three workers, has now been reduced to one,” says one worker on the picket lines.
In addition to understaffing the libraries, the employer, the City of Mississauga, has also resorted to replacing full time positions with temporary and part-time positions.
As a result, the majority of staff now work part-time and the union representing them, CUPE 1989, is mainly fighting for better benefits for these part-timers. “We feel it is punitive that our part-time workers are getting such a bad deal”, says CUPE 1989 President Laura Kaminker. “But the fact that we are willing to fight together, that means everything.”
So what is the bad deal? Well, in an official statement CUPE 1989 has stated that their part-time workers don’t receive any benefits. They do not have paid sick days, paid vacation, or paid bereavement leave. Most are scheduled to work only 12-16 hours a week and due to recent features like self-checkout, many are down to 8 hours a week.
The city also dictates the vacation of part-timers by forcing them to use their unpaid vacation in week-long blocks versus in single days. While in 2014 and 2015 the City of Mississauga did give a 0.5% wage increase, however, the cost of living increased by about 1.8% annually. In addition, the city gave the transit workers a 2% wage increase during that time.
This raises an interesting point about the gender wage gap since the transit workforce in Mississauga is predominately male while the library workforce is predominately female. Coincidently, last week the Essex County library also went on strike over similar reasons, particularly sick days.
Library workers are walking the picket for fairness, decent benefits and an end to precarious work. Meanwhile, their employers have enjoyed generous salary increases.
“In 2015, Library Director Rose Vespa received a 7.3% salary increase, raising her pay to $176,000,” notes CUPE 1989 in a public statement. “Library managers salaries total approximately $2.3 million. City manager Janice Baker earns $280,000.”
Clearly, such figures show that Mississauga is indeed a wealthy city. It is quite shocking then to learn that while 28% of the members in Mississauga earn under $12/hr, in Brampton the same work pays almost $19/hr! The Brampton library part-time staff also receive benefits which include paid sick days, paid vacation, and paid bereavement leave.
Let us not forget that these librarians are the women and men we have grown up with. They have always been there to help us out when we needed to find the right book, article, and documentary for our school essay or personal leisure. They provide free services for newcomers: including language learning, resume writing, job search assistance and much more. Right now they need our support, we might not get another opportunity to help them out for all those years they have supported us, so let it be today!
Let it be now that we visit them at the picket line and keep their spirits up! Email Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Library board members John Kovac and Matt Mahoney and ask them to treat library workers with fairness and respect. You can also sign a petition at 1989.cupe.ca. If you are driving by Celebration Square, make sure to give the folks on the picket line a friendly honk!
I will be there, and I hope you will join us too.