Community is looking for elected leaders who will act in the best interests of constituents and library workers, president of striking library workers’ union says

Bradford Today
Letter to the Editor
September 11, 2023

BradfordToday welcomes letters to the editor at or via our website. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). BradfordToday received the following letter to the editor from CUPE 905 president Katherine Grzejszczak in response to the article ‘Totally untrue’: Bradford mayor refutes library union claims and the events at the Sept. 5 council meeting.

Firstly, regarding the Town applying for arbitration to impose a first collective agreement (CA) on library workers. Instead of reaching a freely negotiated deal with the union, the mayor, a member of IBEW Local 353, is supporting a process to strip library workers of their Constitutional right to strike. The human right to collectively withdraw our labour is the only mechanism workers have to effectively pressure employers into improving working conditions.

That library workers have been striking for 53 days shows their commitment to a fair wage increase (2022: 2%, 2023: $1.35, 2024: $1.35) after years of stagnant compensation during 40-year high inflation.

On the issue of the CA length that can be imposed on workers by an arbitrator, I stand corrected.

Mayor Leduc’s comments about equal treatment of all town employees is not factual. By that logic every town employee would see a $16,500 raise between 2020 and 2022, equal to the Library CEO. And every town worker would have received a 4% wage increase in 2022, equal to the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793 CAs in public works, facilities, and parks.

Instead, other town workers received a 2% wage increase in 2022.

The argument of equality of treatment is being used to deny some of the town’s lowest paid workers increases that would start lifting their wages towards the 2022 GTA living wage of $23.15. At the same time, the library workers’ prolonged struggle for fairness will raise the bar for all workers and we are incredibly proud to be leading this fight.

The mayor’s comments about tax increases uses fear of the rising cost of living to pit “taxpayers” against library workers. Based directly on figures provided in the Employer’s legal submission to the Labour Board, the Board cannot find an additional $42,000 annually in a $3-million library budget.

Why would the mayor look to increase taxes when the library finances were left in “excellent financial shape” by the outgoing Library Board with $1 million in reserves?

The mayor has not responded to the union’s assertion about the ongoing payroll savings as a result of the seven-week strike which we estimate at $161,000 and rising. I question whether the mayor will be making similar comments about tax increases when the council compensation committee returns with recommendations that will undoubtedly see compensation increases to mayor and council.

Unsubstantiated threats about tax increases are intended to divide workers from the community that has unwaveringly supported them since the beginning of the strike.

Finally, I would like to bring attention to the Mayor’s comments during the Sept. 5 Council Meeting Open Forum. At the 15:00 mark, Mayor Leduc can be heard addressing those present at the meeting: “Any more outbursts I’ll just throw you’se all out.” This callous approach by those in positions of power has laid bare the reason for the ongoing strike.

The mayor’s Aug. 10 written response to a constituent that “all of what you have been told is propaganda by a union that came into our town went to the library and signed up some women that really didn’t understand what they were getting into.”

Councillor Ferragine’s hot mic incident at the beginning of the Aug. 15 council meeting where he was heard commenting to Councillor Giordano that Open Forum (when council hears from the public) is wasted time.

Councillor Giordano, a Library Board member, calling the police on library workers twice, when faced with the consequences of his decisions that have led to this strike. And most recently Giordano’s September 4th Facebook video, which has now been removed. In the video Giordano offers five tables at the local fish and chip shop as a solution for students who cannot access library study space.

Taken together, these incidents leave the impression that some BWG elected officials don’t understand the responsibility that comes with their office, which is making decisions in the best interest of the community. Councillor Giordano’s comments that “we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard” is the opposite of the behaviour we’ve witnessed since the start of this strike.

After 53 days of a library closure, this community is looking for elected leaders who will act in the best interests of constituents and library workers. The near future will show whether such leaders can be found on council.

Katherine Grzejszczak
CUPE 905