Toronto Library Workers Strike for Fairness | The Ontario Federation of Labour

Toronto Library Workers Strike for Fairness

Contract talks between Toronto Public Library Board and its 2,300 employees broke down on March 18 and the workers walked out to protest concessions that were the most onerous in the history of the library.

The job action is the direct result of the aggressive budgetary cuts that were imposed by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford who had initially proposed library closures before his motion was defeated by Council. Despite this victory for city workers, a 5.9 percent cut in library funding by the City of Toronto, resulted in the deletion of 107 full-time positions.

“Half of our members work part-time, and the vast majority are women living on fairly low incomes,” said Maureen O’Reilly, president of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union, CUPE Local 4948. “Despite this, the Library Board has blindly followed the lead of the City of Toronto and demanded concessions at the bargaining table that would take away the rights of part-timers to have a decent quality of life and full-time opportunities.”

The OFL produced hundreds of solidarity signs on the first morning of the strike and distributed them during a massive rally at Toronto City Hall. Thousands more of the signs were distributed at picket lines outside library branches in the following days to showcase the broad public support for these public servants. OFL staff and all three OFL officers joined the rally of over 1000 library workers where Ryan called for strong union solidarity to support the library workers in taking on the Mayor’s agenda.

While City of Toronto outside workers, represented by CUPE Local 416, managed to reach a final hour settlement with the city in February, the inside workers, represented by CUPE Local 79, are gearing up for their own battle with the Mayor.

Renowned Canadian author Margaret Atwood added her voice to the growing public support for the library workers. Hopefully this popular support will make it untenable for the city to maintain its aggressive bargaining position with both of the unions.