Socialist.ca spoke with Kunwal Farooqui, a striking library worker, who has worked in the Mississauga library system for 13 years:
"I’ve held several positions, including many years of being part-time, and recently full-time. In the past 13 years, I have seen the conditions in the Mississauga library system deteriorate. It’s actually appalling what is happening to our part-time employees.
The library system is open between the hours of 9 am to 9 pm, Monday to Friday, and on Saturdays we’re open all day. Sundays, they’re proposing to open all day. Our part-time employees are required to be available at all times. So if you would like to be employed with the City of Mississauga, you need to be available at all times. Yet they only give you a maximum of 24 hours of work in a week, and a lot of our employees are working between 8 to 12 hours only.
So if you’re only working between 8 to 12 hours, and you need to be available to work all the time, there is no other employer that will hire you. Our employer is actually forcing employees into poverty. Our entry level employees are literally making minimum wage. So they are at maximum making $14,000 a year, and most are not even making that much.
We’re fighting for better working conditions. Of course one of the things we’ve been talking about is the fact that the City of Mississauga is promoting precarious work. Another thing they have on the table that we will absolutely never agree to is forcing part-time employees to lose an entire week of wages if they want to take one day off.
If you want to attend your child’s spring concert and you tell your employer that you need to take an evening off, they’re telling you “you need to take the entire week off,” which is absolutely appalling. If you’re in school and you have an exam to write, they want you to take the entire week off. And they’re only allowing you to take this one week a maximum of twice in a year. So, two times a year you can ask for a day off, and you’ll be forced to take a whole week off. I’ve never heard of an employer that forces its employees to lose an entire week of wages just because you want to take a single day off.
Half of our membership are full-time, and we’re still supporting our part-time workers because there is no way we will ever give into conditions like that. The City of Mississauga should be an employer that leads by example . We are the sixth largest city in Canada, the city makes a lot of money and has a lot of money to spend for employees at all different levels, yet our part-time workers are working in conditions which are absolutely disgusting.
There are no words to describe what our part-time workers are going through. They may be trying to hold down multiple jobs, but the city is making it tougher and tougher just because they’re forcing them to be available around the clock. And we have no time for family life. We may be working till 9 one night and show up at 8 o’clock again in the morning. And that’s just what the employer is expecting.
So all of us out here, we had a 96 per cent vote in favour of strike, and we’re going to stay out here until our employer realizes that our members are human too."