TORONTO, ON – As bargaining with the City of Toronto heats up, part-time city workers are speaking out about their working conditions to help raise public awareness that half of the city’s employees deliver valuable services without stable jobs or benefits.
“I watched my scheduled hours drop from 30 hours a week to 10 hours a week with no warning,” said Shannon Berseth, a 311 customer service representative. “Now I make myself available for every shift possible to pick up extra hours, and I can’t really plan my life because shifts can come up last minute.”
Lack of reliable hours, little notice in shift scheduling, and little to no benefits are issues that plague many part-time workers in Toronto, including those working for the city.
“The city would have you believe its jobs are secure, stable jobs with great benefits,” said Tim Maguire, president of Local 79. “In fact, half of Local 79’s frontline workers are in part-time or temporary work and, for most of them, they can’t rely on their jobs to make ends meet.”
The situation is the same for Toronto Public Library Workers, said Maureen O’Reilly, president of Local 4948: “There are too many workers who have been working for the city for many years, working full-time hours, but who can’t get a full-time job.”
Ada Jaworska has been a part-time public service assistant with the library for 10 years. “I’ve been told I might have to work 12 years before I have a chance at getting a full-time job,” she said. “I miss a shift and I can’t pay the bills.”
Maguire said the lack of reliable stable jobs in the city affects the people who receive the services too, especially when those are vulnerable populations.
“I work with children and youth who have pretty rough lives,” said Michelle Watson, a recreation worker who’s been part-time for nine years. “I develop a relationship with them and they trust me, but because I’m part-time, I don’t know if I’ll be there for them from month-to-month.”
Maguire said this round of bargaining presents the city with the opportunity to provide the good, stable jobs, and not only deliver great services Toronto residents deserve, but also set an important standard for other Toronto employers. “Workers across Toronto face the same problems. The city can be a leader in providing good, stable jobs with benefits, and urge other Toronto employers to follow suit.”
Four CUPE locals are currently negotiating new collective agreements with the city: CUPE Local 79 (City of Toronto Inside Workers); CUPE Local 4948 (Toronto Public Library Workers Union); the Toronto Civic Employees Union, CUPE Local 416 (City of Toronto Outside Workers); and CUPE Local 2998 (City of Toronto Association of Community Centres). Lack of a commitment to minimum hours of work, little notice for scheduled shifts, lack of access to benefits, and limited access to pensions are issues the unions are looking to address in bargaining. Together, the four locals represent nearly 28,000 City of Toronto staff.
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