[A PDF of this letter is also available.]
March 21, 2012
To: Councillor Paul Ainslie, Chair of the Toronto Public Library Board
Jane Pyper, City Librarian
We, the academic librarians and archivists of the Library Chapter of the York University Faculty Association, are writing in regards to the strike at Toronto Public Library and in solidarity with our colleagues in the Toronto Public Library Workers Union, CUPE Local 4948.
Many of the students who eventually come to York University rely upon our public libraries throughout their high school years to help them do their research and achieve their academic goals. Many of our current students use TPL branches as supplementary study halls when they are not on campus. Students, faculty and librarians at York also rely upon TPL collections for various forms of non-academic information for our personal and professional lives. We also have faculty members who make extensive research use of TPL’s special collections. Consequently, we recognize the role public librarians and library workers play in the education continuum and the ways in which Toronto’s institutions of higher learning and our public library system work together to help foster an informed, literate citizenry.
As such we stand with our colleagues at TPL and demand equitable treatment of TPL workers. In particular we ask for fairness to the many part-time workers who often do not have access to benefits and very little opportunity for full-time work. TPL’s over-reliance on part-time workers strikes us as extremely problematic—it must be difficult for library workers to develop meaningful relationships with their patrons when they only work a few hours a week. Such relationships between library workers and communities are integral to developing needs-based programs and collections. Also, recruitment of new, talented librarians becomes an issue in this labour framework—who would want to work at a place where you might wait ten years before finding full-time work? That the TPL has been as successful as it has under these difficult circumstances speaks well to the dedication, passion and integrity of the people who work there—but how long can this situation continue?
We also note that in eliminating job security for people with less than 15 years of service, 70% of Local 4948 will become more vulnerable and precariously employed than ever before. TPL already lost 107 positions due to budget cuts this year, despite increases in circulation statistics and gate counts—there simply cannot be any further cuts to staffing. The outside workers union (CUPE 416) does not have as many part-time workers and hence it is unfair to use the same bargaining strategy with both unions. We also note that the majority of TPL employees are women, and that any further cuts to TPL staff serves to marginalize women who are employed by the city by reducing their numbers and increasing the precariousness of the remaining women’s employment standards.
Lastly, we consider Rob Ford’s agenda a local manifestation of what we are seeing happening in many regions, namely an evisceration of decent jobs that offer a living wage. The people on the picket lines are not some special breed—they are ordinary people attempting to maintain some semblance of job security and decent pay. They are our neighbours and they are us. They are people who rely on decent employment for the well-being of themselves and their families. We suspect that many of them (like us) are not in a position to endlessly sacrifice for some neoliberal agenda of austerity. Communities are hurt by strikes, but let’s understand who is being hurt the most: ordinary people, citizens and taxpayers, trying to make a living.
William Denton <email@example.com>
On behalf of the Library Chapter of the York University Faculty Association