TORONTO, March 4, 2016 /CNW/ - The union that represents over 2,200 workers at the Toronto Public Library (TPL) today announced a public campaign to expose "the shocking degree of precarious work" being imposed on workers at one of the world's busiest and most respected public library systems.
"Precarious Work" is a term developed by the United Way and the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to describe jobs that are part-time, insecure or contractual with typically unstable incomes, little or no health care benefits protection and without other normal features of full-time jobs. The term became well-known in Toronto with the 2013 report "It's More Than Poverty," by the United Way and McMaster University. A separate but related survey on TPL workers found precarious work rampant in the library system.
"People are very surprised to learn that half of all front-line public library workers are working in part-time, precarious jobs even though they are trained for and are seeking full-time work in this important area of public service," says Maureen O'Reilly, President of the Toronto Public Library Workers' Union – Local 4948 ("TPLWU").
"Library patrons go into their neighbourhood branch and perhaps think "This would be a great job," but the truth is hidden from the public."
"Half of all TPL workers are part-time and of these, 75 per cent are female," says O'Reilly. "A large percentage of them need to work two jobs just to scrape by. Many library specialists with at least one and often two graduate degrees have been working part-time in the TPL for years in the hope of eventually getting a full-time job. Many have had to ultimately drop out of the system in order to support their families, even though they have spent years in training, much of which was paid for by taxpayers and students alike. It's a sad and wasteful system, and a false economy.
"We intend to expose the truth because library patrons are being continuously shortchanged by cuts to the system, which means cuts to the people who operate and maintain it."
TPLWU is being joined in its campaign by the Toronto Women's City Alliance, a progressive women's group in the GTA.
The campaign will be launched by a short animated video made in the style of a trailer for a "horror movie" film and can be viewed at www.OurPublicLibrary.to. A longer video that details the depth of the precarious work issue in Toronto is also part of the campaign, which is aimed at the City in general and Mayor John Tory in particular.
"It turns out that Mayor Tory has no more respect for female City workers than his predecessor," says O'Reilly.
"He voted to deny a motion by Councillor Mike Layton to study the quality of library services through an equity lens. In fact, he voted against it twice.
"We don't know what Mayor Tory has against women who work in our public library but we intend to make him explain himself. The numbers speak for themselves so perhaps he can start there. Why are female library workers so disproportionately blocked from full-time jobs despite their high levels of education and their public service motivation? And why is he now, in this round of collective bargaining, asking for further cuts to the people who perform such an important public service?"
O'Reilly said the campaign will be taken directly to City Councillors and will make heavy use of social media to spread the truth about the Tory administration's addiction to precarious work.
"Remember when Rob Ford wanted to close one-third of all library branches in this city?" asked O'Reilly. "He ran straight into the brick wall of public opinion and at the end of the day, none were closed. That wall is still there, waiting for Mayor Tory to take a run at it.
"Better wear a helmet, Mr. Mayor," said O'Reilly. "Torontonians love their library and the people who make it work so well."
SOURCE Toronto Public Library Workers Union
For further information: Maureen O'Reilly, 647.206.7457