Part-time City workers need quality working conditions to deliver quality services
Maureen O’Reilly and Tim Maguire, presidents of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) locals 4948 and 79, joined city workers to warn the public about an increased reliance on increasingly precarious part-time work.
By aiming for more part-time work (such as in Local 4948) and reducing access to hours for part-time workers (such as in Local 79), concessions sought from both locals would hurt the quality and availability of work in libraries and community centres.
At the Toronto Public Library (TPL), staffing levels are shrinking even as usage is growing. More and more work is being done by part-time employees, who get no additional compensation.
“Many of our members are already struggling to put together the hours to pay the bills and afford medical needs,” said O’Reilly. “The City puts a lot of energy into helping people make ends meet. It makes no sense to push our members toward the same kind of precarity they are helping others avoid.”
Maguire pointed out that the City’s proposal to remove workers’ access to hours by seniority would represent a drastic change in their thousands of part-time members’ ability to make a decent living.
“The most experienced and loyal part-time staff are given priority access to hours,” said Maguire. “They can plan on a predictable, living income. And the City can plan on attracting and keeping the most experienced and skilled workers.”
Meghan Tanaka, Local 79 member and lifeguard, questioned the sense in eliminating seniority scheduling and opening the door to favouritism. “Why would the City want to get rid of a fair, objective practice that can’t be exploited?” she said. “Despite what some think, we don’t want seniority to trump job performance. We want fair treatment. Elimination of seniority scheduling leaves us very vulnerable.”
“Public services shouldn’t be a dead-end,” said Vanessa Marion-Merrit, a part-time library worker. “I work in the library because I want to contribute to my community, and develop my skills – but all I’m seeing is bleak prospects and low pay.”
CUPE Local 79 has four bargaining units, three of them including thousands of part-time workers providing child care, recreations programs and services for the homeless. Three quarters of Local 79 members are women, and a great many are young workers. With any loss of scheduling rights, comes loss of income – and loss of access to benefits on which staff rely.
CUPE Local 4948 (Toronto Public Library Workers) positions have been reduced by 17% since amalgamation, though TPL use grew 29%. Part-time members do more, have difficulty finding full-time work, and rarely qualify for benefits (only 22% – and even they must pay 40% of those benefits).