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Toronto library workers show that sometimes it's better to fight than to run away

By: 
JY Hodge

April 1, 2012

Toronto Public Library workers ended a ten-day strike recently, scoring a significantly better contract then their brothers and sisters in other municipal workers unions; a contract however, that was unable to stave off all major concessions.

Faced with an employer in lockstep with mayor Rob Ford’s ‘Workers are gravy’ mantra, the Library Workers in CUPE 4948 chose to strike rather than cede a concession on job security that would have left 65 per cent of the workforce susceptible to arbitrary layoff in the event of contracting out or privatization (one of the mayor’s fixations). Additionally, the library staff was able to push back dozens of management take-away demands, and actually win some gains for part-time workers and on benefits.

The mayor had thus far had his way with Toronto workers, first bargaining a major concession contract with outside staff, then finagling a similarly anti-worker deal from the much larger inside worker unit. Only the library workers–through strike action–were able to substantially reduce or eliminate the concessions tabled.

However, one should not sugarcoat the result. Members gave up an enormous concession on job security, which while it does not match either of the other city units in years of seniority, it does leave a larger percentage of the workforce unprotected. The union is responding by promising renewed public campaigns (ourpubliclibrary.to) as well as a political action campaign to oust Library Board chair Paul Ainslie from his city council seat! Our fight has shown that, when dealing with an anti-worker employer and a sympathetic public, it is better to stand and fight than to meekly submit. The mayor would be best advised to take note.

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