Source: Ontario Federation of Labour

Striking cafeteria workers achieve ground-breaking settlement at York University, show $15/hour an achievable goal for all service workers

Sub-contracted cafeteria workers at York University demonstrate that 'precarious jobs' can become 'good jobs'

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - March 7, 2017) - Striking cafeteria workers working for a sub-contractor at York University voted to ratify the tentative settlement reached over the weekend. This settlement means an immediate raise in their paycheques of more than 10% for most workers. Within a year no worker will be making less than $15 an hour. In addition, full- and part-time workers have won immediate free dental coverage and, by the end of the agreement all workers will enjoy full and free health benefits for themselves and their families.

"We showed what can be accomplished when workers organize together and fight," said Malka Paracha, a cafeteria worker on campus at York. "We were ready to strike as long as it took to win - we said we were going to end poverty-wage jobs on campus and that's exactly what we're doing."

"This really was a game-changing strike in terms of solidarity and support," said Lis Pimentel, President of UNITE HERE Local 75. "We could not have achieved this landmark victory without the help of the students, faculty and staff at York, including the York Federation of Students, the York University Faculty Association, the York University Graduate Students' Association, CUPE Local 3903, CUPE Local 1356, the Osgoode Hall Law Union, the York University Staff Association, Fight for $15 & Fairness - York U, Real Food Real Jobs, and the York Cross-Campus Alliance."

The strike was connected to a province-wide movement called the Fight for $15 & Fairness, a campaign to improve the wages, benefits and working conditions for low-income workers in so-called 'precarious jobs.' In addition, the strikers received support from members of the Toronto City Council and the provincial NDP caucus, including Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns.

The strike also occurred as the Provincial government is reviewing existing labour laws and standards as it seeks to address the explosion of precarious poverty wage jobs that increasingly underpin our economy. Loopholes that presently exist for sub-contractors tend to lock people into poverty wage jobs even when they work for community anchor institutions like York University and the University of Toronto. Over the course of the strike, workers sought to highlight these issues by attending Queen's Park and holding a weekly silent vigil outside the legislature.

Cafeteria workers working for a sub-contractor at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus are still on strike. A number of actions are planned for the coming days to bring, including outreach to the Honourable Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Learning and Skills Development, and another Silent Vigil this week at Queen's Park.

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Marc Hollin