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Ontario NDP leader lends support to Bradford’s striking library workers

‘Somebody has to wake up, whether it’s the CEOs at Loblaws and Metro or the folks at city hall in communities like this,’ said Marit Stiles while supporting local library workers

The leader of Ontario’s Official Opposition is officially supporting Bradford library workers.

Marit Stiles, leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party, stopped in Bradford earlier this week to visit the picket line outside the Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library.

In speaking with workers, Stiles thanked them for their courage and empathized with the increasing difficulties and complexities library workers face.

“This is a community place. This is a place that people go to for refuge, for safety for services for air conditioning,” she said.

Stiles also noted the library workers aren’t alone in their fight for improved compensation and conditions.

“There’s something happening right now ... Working people are saying ‘it ain’t enough. It ain't anywhere near enough,’ and somebody has to wake up, whether it’s the CEOs at Loblaws and Metro or the folks at city hall in communities like this,” she said to cheers and applause from those gathered at the picket.

Stiles also took aim at Ontario Premier Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, for needing to pay heed to the needs of workers.

“I can tell you for darn sure, it’s the premier of this province and the Conservative government. It is time they realize people should not be working full-time jobs in any sector and having to go to a food bank. Nobody should be worrying whether or not they can pay the rent or keep the roof over their heads. We’re in a turning point I think,” she said.

Stiles was unavailable Thursday to answer follow-up questions.

Other guests to the picket of the strike included Jamie West, NDP MPP for Sudbury; Fred Hahn, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, which is representing the 36 striking Bradford library workers and Yolanda McCLean, secretary-treasurer for CUPE Ontario.

The visit came one day after the union hosted a rally Tuesday evening where more than 50 workers, supporters and guests from other unions gathered outside the Bradford and District Memorial Community Centre, where staff aired concerns in open forum during the regular meeting of council, which had been relocated from the usual spot in at the library, which has been closed since the strike began, on July 21.

During the rally, Katherine Grzejszczak, president of CUPE Local 905, revealed that since negotiations for the workers' first collective agreement began in September 2022, the union had initially been requesting a raise of $1.50 per hour each year over two years, but in the last two days of negotiations pulled back to $1.35 instead.

Grzejszczak also confirmed that at 3 a.m. on July 21, at the end of an 18-hour bargaining session, the union withdrew their request for health benefits for part-time employees, but a deal still could not be reached.

Earlier Tuesday, Matthew Corbett, library CEO, released a statement providing details of the employer’s most-recent offer to the workers, an 11-per-cent wage increase staggered over four years with:

  • 3 per cent retroactive to Jan 1, 2023
  • 3 per cent effective Jan 1, 2024
  • 2.5 per cent effective Jan 1, 2025
  • 2.5 per cent effective Jan 1, 2026

The union rejected the deal, resulting in workers going on strike. Today is Day 15 on the picket line.

Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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