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Toronto library workers reach tentative agreement

CityNews | posted Monday, May 2nd, 2016

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Toronto’s 2,220 library workers have reached a tentative agreement, the union said early Monday morning, and libraries will open as scheduled.

Employees could have walked off the job just after midnight, closing the city’s 100 public libraries.

However, just before 7 a.m., union president Maureen O’Reilly said a deal had been reached, and the Toronto Public Library Board and the Toronto Public Library Workers Union (Local 4948 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees) had a new four-year contract.

“This has been a difficult round of bargaining, but our bargaining committee has secured a deal which we believe addresses some of our concerns and allows Toronto’s library workers to continue to provide great services in the city’s 100 branches,” O’Reilly said in a statement.

The deal has not yet been ratified, and the terms have not been revealed.

One of the main stumbling blocks in the dispute had been the issue of part-time employees and stability for precarious workers.

“They’re struggling under the current working conditions, and we certainly need a way forward on those issues,” O’Reilly said during a rally at Nathan Phillip’s Square on Saturday.

Other demands include employment security and wage increases.

“A lot of the things that we’re asking for are things that have fallen way below the rate of inflation and haven’t been increased in 10 or 15 years,” she said.

But it’s not just the union that’s looking to reduce precarious work, former MP Andrew Cash is leading a campaign aimed at changing Canada’s labour laws.

“This is a struggle that goes far beyond just library workers,” he said. “It’s important that we realize that the fight library workers fight today, is a fight that sole and self-employed people are fighting too.”

Cash, the co-founder of the Urban Worker Project, said the national initiative will highlight the plight faced by employees who don’t have access to pension, benefits or job security.

“We want to raise the issue, make it one of the issues that public policy has to deal with,” he explained. “Whether we’re dealing with municipal, provincial or federal governments, we need to be looking through the lens of precarious work when we build out new public policy.”

The Urban Worker Project is expected to launch May 6 at Propeller Coffee in Toronto. Cash said this is the first of many events that will help to build the community needed to push for legislative change.

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