Vancouver Island libraries saw British Columbia General Employees Union protestors outside their doors this week.
Negotiations are still ongoing, with one of the staples being better wages for library employees. Union members make up 12% of VIRL’s permanent workforce— 48 full time librarians.
“I don’t think it’s any shock to any of your listeners that the cost of living has increased a great deal, and our members are falling behind,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. “So what we’re looking for is wage offer that addresses the cost of living, how expensive it is, and recognizes the contribution of our members to provide the community.”
There has also been some concerns around occupational safety as well as recognition of increased stress.
The last collective agreement between the library and BCGEU Local 702 expired at the end of 2020. VIRL was given 72 hour strike notice to open up negotiations, however, communication has been tough.
“Librarians don’t want to be on the picket line, they want to be at work providing services to their communities. So when we issue a 72 hour strike notice, it’s a window of opportunity for the employer to, again, make an offer or respond to a counter offer. That didn’t happen,” said Smith. “Librarians felt that they want to show both the community and their employers how serious they are about getting a deal— but they want to mitigate the impacts on the community. They want to get the employer back to the table, have them respond to the counter offer— the wage counter offer— and get to an agreement.”
Smith says as of today, no counter offer has been made against the union’s demands, and no further word has been made by VIRL’s mediator.
“I think one of the picket signs said it best; when librarians get loud, you know there’s a problem,” said Smith.
Smith encouraged anyone who’s interested in keeping up to date with strike action and demands to visit the union’s website.