Striking Mississauga library workers say some wages are below poverty line

Mississauga's striking library workers say they're living "under the poverty line" while city executives are raking in six-digit salaries that are "out of control."

City says they want union back at the table to end 'unnecessary strike'

Union president Laura Kaminker on why Mississauga library workers are on strike. 0:51

Mississauga's striking library workers say they need higher wages to keep up with the cost of living along with help for part-time workers. 

The unionized city workers walked off the job three weeks ago after 96 per cent of them rejected an offer from the city that would have increased their wages by 1.5 per cent. In 2015, inflation was pegged at 2 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

CUPE Local 1989 union president Laura Kaminker, who represents library workers, told CBC News those raises fell below the increased cost of living.

"In the same city, we have this massive income inequality where city workers are making less than $12 an hour, they're under the poverty line, and we have city executives whose salaries are out of control," Kaminker said Sunday.

"Almost 30 per cent of our membership earns only pennies over minimum wage ... which in Peel Region, which is so expensive, it's impossible for them to make ends meet,"

Kaminker explained how more and more library workers are part-time employees working irregular hours.

"We're on strike because 56 per cent of our members are part-time with no benefits, no paid sick time, no paid vacation — nothing. Nothing but what they earn," she noted.

"Our part-time complement is growing all the time. They're lucky if they get 12, 16 hours a week. Some of them only get eight hours a week, but their schedules are changing constantly, so it's almost impossible for them to hold a second or third job that most of them need," she said. 

'Treatment is so unfair'

Kaminker also said the library workers haven't received a meaningful pay increase since 2012. 

"We feel so disrespected and the treatment is so unfair, that we were just at a breaking point," Kaminker said.

There haven't been any meetings with the city since negotiations broke down before the July 3 strike deadline.

The city said it just don't have the money to meet the union's demands and that the workers rejected a "fair and competitive offer" earlier this month. 

In a statement emailed to CBC News on Sunday evening, director of library services Rose Vespa said it is unfortunate that no progress has been made between the two sides.

"We are of course disappointed there is a strike but we are more disappointed that CUPE Local 1989 walked away from the bargaining table and didn't continue to work with us to avoid this unnecessary strike," she wrote.

Vespa added the city will remain "available to resume bargaining with CUPE Local 1989 at any time" so libraries can reopen. 

"Our unionized library staff play a important role on our library team and in our community, no question," she wrote. "We want CUPE Local 1989 back to the table."

All 18 library branches across the city have been closed since workers went on strike July 4th.
There haven't been any meetings between the city and library workers in Mississauga since negotiations broke down before the July 3 strike deadline. (CBC)