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Care about active communities?
So do we.
CUPE Local 79 represents over 9,000 part-time recreation workers who help make Toronto a great place to live, learn and play.
In city-run recreation centres, our members give people of all ages an opportunity to discover new passions and develop new skills in a safe environment. They’re places where kids can spend a few extra hours after school while their parents finish work, and where seniors can come together for a good workout and a good conversation.
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At more than 100 indoor and outdoor pools across Toronto, we teach swimming skills that will last a lifetime. Newcomers swimming for the first time in their lives are given safe places to learn at any age, including women-only classes that accommodate cultural expectations of privacy.

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In arts programs and performance spaces, our members help kids unlock new confidence in supportive environments. These are often the first opportunities many kids have to experience theatre, dance, and the arts.

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Thanks to the hard work of our members, Toronto’s seniors have access to programs that connect them with their communities and keep them active, giving them an opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people.

The Right Person
Member-Sheerah
Sheerah,
Recreation Program Coordinator
“When I teach, I adapt the skills to different levels of ability. A lot of the time, it’s about building confidence. If they have a disability, I ask them: ‘What are your goals?’ Children love the opportunity to be leaders and be helpful, so I help them learn how they can help other people.”

Our part-time recreation workers like Sheerah have to wear many hats: they’re instructors, leaders, mentors and first aid responders — sometimes all on the same day. Whether they’re running an after-school program or lifeguarding a pool, they share a commitment to the people under their care. And without their work, Toronto simply wouldn’t be as much fun.

We engage young people with their city.

In neighbourhoods across Toronto, CUPE Local 79 members develop programs that build connections between youth and their communities, giving them a voice and the opportunity to effect change. These include more than 40 City Youth Councils modeled on municipal government that let kids and teens tackle issues relevant to their communities.

Our members help ensure that racialized, disabled, and other marginalized youth experience equity in their city through programs like wheelchair basketball leagues and newcomer skating events. For youth at risk, recreation programs often become a pathway to productive opportunities and positive outcomes they may not have access to anywhere else.

The Right Person
Zachary,
Youth Outreach Worker
“Listening is key. It’s not about keeping it traditional. It’s about having new youth come through your doors for innovative reasons. We can do formal or informal focus groups to put programs in place for youth we’ve formed meaningful relationships with. The best part is that you already have the people attending the program, because they’re the ones making it.”

Members like Zachary bring a deep understanding of their community’s needs to keep programming relevant and impactful to the kids they serve.

Now these vital services are under threat.
Now these vital services are under threat.

Wait-lists for city recreation programs have ballooned to nearly 200,000 people. If nothing is done, that’s expected to grow to 400,000 by 2025. Without the staff to deliver programs, families will simply be out of luck.

Our part-time recreation workers are expected to be available seven days a week, while the city can cancel shifts with almost no notice. Their work is often reduced due to factors outside their control, like weather, which makes it difficult for them to plan their lives around school, second jobs and family. In addition, many recreation workers, most of whom are students and seniors, must pay significant upfront costs for training and uniforms to be eligible for work, but get no reimbursement from the city.

Recreation workers do not get benefits or sick days, which means that if they have the flu, they have to choose between going to work at an after-school program sick or not getting paid. Nobody should be put in that position.

Toronto deserves better. Help us continue to deliver the services our communities depend on.