Hard At Work: Why this city employee says years of contract work led to her mental breakdown

April 19, 2017

When Victoria Muir was hired by the City of Toronto as a camp counsellor in 2003, she thought she "hit the jackpot" with a "dream job."

Working her way up, the Queen's University graduate landed a contract in 2006 as a community recreation programmer whose job duties included time in at-risk neighbourhoods, home visits with Syrian refugees and women fleeing abuse.

Muir worked full-time hours, but under the part-time collective agreement, doing something she said was her purpose in life. 

She was happily married and her husband also worked for the city at the time. They bought a home in the east-end and were looking forward to having kids — but putting it off until they had more work stability and benefits.

More than a decade later, working contract after contract without benefits or sick days — Muir suffered a mental breakdown and a miscarriage within the same week.

"The culture is keep your nose to the ground," she told CBC Toronto from her home. "Work hard and eventually you'll get your permanent contract."

Muir is speaking out, she says, because she doesn't want to see any more young workers forced to endure part-time, temporary contracts. She has provided extensive documentation of her work history and her grievance process with the city, which CBC Toronto has reviewed.

'Strong and confident' worker

Muir says she was very good at her job and won several awards on behalf of the city for the work she did. One of Muir's co-workers spoke to CBC Toronto under condition of anonymity and echoed this, saying Muir was passionate and an excellent worker.

"People didn't believe I was capable of having a mental breakdown because I was so strong and so confident," said Muir.

Read more: Hard At Work: Why this city employee says years of contract work led to her mental breakdown