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LETTER: Striking library workers 'disheartened' by town, CEO

'Perhaps it is time for our Council and Mayor Leduc to collaborate more constructively on a revised proposal,' says CUPE
Katherine Grzejszczak, left, president of CUPE Local 905, listens as Adbi Hagi Yusuf, secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), speaks to the crowd of library workers, union members and supporters of striking workers of the Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library during a rally outside the Bradford and District Memorial Community Centre before the regular meeting of council on Tuesday evening, Aug. 1, 2023.

BradfordToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected]. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following is an open letter to the community from Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library CUPE 905 Workers.

We are profoundly grateful for the unwavering support you have extended throughout the nearly month-long strike at the library. We hear your honks, see your waves, love all the snacks and drinks you have dropped off, and appreciate all the emails, letters and deputations you have addressed to council on our behalf and that you’ve spent time with us on the picket line.

As we find ourselves in our 24th day of this difficult situation, we must acknowledge that the Town and our elected officials have left us with no recourse. Unfortunately, their actions, intended to undermine us, have inadvertently affected you as well with no end in sight to the library closure.

We understand that in the past week, a Library Board meeting transpired (although it wasn’t publicized on the board website), fostering hope for a positive resolution. Regrettably, the outcome is a smear campaign against the dedicated library workers who are currently on strike.

To our astonishment and disappointment, a statement on the Town's official Facebook page, attributed to Mayor Leduc, falsely claimed our unwillingness to negotiate. In fact, we have been patiently awaiting a new offer from the town since the early hours of July 21.

Adding to our dismay, Library CEO Matthew Corbett utilized our library's email patron database to disseminate a mass email containing misleading information about us, characterizing us as self-serving and undeserving contributors to the strike. This further exacerbates an already challenging situation.

A significant 75% of our workforce consists of part-time employees who do not have access to health benefits. Our aspirations are simple: to earn a fair wage that enables us to make an honest living and manage our financial responsibilities.

We are disheartened by the events that have transpired and wish to reassure our community that the portrayal of us by the town is unfounded. Our only request is for equity: a modest $1.35 annual raise for all workers. The assertion by the town and the CEO that such an increase would result in a tax hike is both preposterous and inaccurate. This tactic only serves to undermine the intelligence of our community members.

While the Town claims an inability to negotiate in dollar amounts, we emphasize that using percentages does not adequately address the concerns of our lowest-paid workers. To clarify, we have already agreed to a 2% increase for the initial year of our agreement (2022) and are now advocating for a $1.35/hr raise in 2023 and 2024.

We harbour reservations about the town's insistence on a five-year agreement, which we believe to be excessively protracted for a first contract and intended to lock many of us into poverty wages for years.

Considering the Town's current offer, an employee earning $20/hr today would end up earning $22.20 by the end of 2026. By our proposal that same employee would be earning $22.70 by the end of 2024 and still trailing the 2022 GTA living wage of $23.15/hr which is based on full-time hours.

We ask you to contemplate if the Town’s proposition resonates as equitable. Perhaps it is time for our Council and Mayor Leduc to collaborate more constructively on a revised proposal, rather than expending valuable resources to attack our Library's already struggling workforce. We invite you to join us at the Council meeting this Tuesday at 6 pm at 125 Simcoe Rd. and to share your thoughts by speaking during the Open Forum at 7 p.m.

The BWGPL CUPE 905 Workers