Protesting Librarians Shut Down Victoria PL for Three Days

Protesting Librarians Shut Down Victoria PL for Three Days

Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 410 are not reporting to work for three days, effectively closing the nine branches of Greater Victoria (B.C.) Public Library January 16, 18, and 21, in the latest skirmish in a labor dispute over pay equity.

“We were out on Wednesday in solidarity with one of our members who was suspended for a day,” union President Ed Seedhouse said in a January 18 e-mail to American Libraries. “That same member has now been suspended for two days so we will be out in solidarity with her on Friday the 18th and Monday the 21st.”

The suspension is fallout from a dispute over a holiday food-for-fines program the union launched as a protest in November. “To [waive fines] is to interfere with the contract between the public and the library and contradictory to library board policy,” library CEO Barry Holmes wrote in an e-mail to the union, the Victoria Times Colonist reported November 30.

Library management said that the fine-amnesty program would continue but would be operated by library managers only. Helen Hughes, a union member and supervisor of circulation at the central branch, waived a fine after this declaration, leading to the shutdown action.

In addition, Seedhouse said the union plans to file a complaint of unfair labor practices with the British Columbia Labour Relations Board.

The union voted in July to authorize a strike, and since then has taken several strike actions, shutting down service at all branches for three days in October, staging rotating walkouts at branches in November, causing noon-hour closures, and suspending programs and internet service.

The broader dispute over pay equity stems from a contract clause saying that library positions should be compared with equivalent city positions. The union argues that the comparison should refer to jobs with similar education and training requirements, while management says that it applies to strictly equivalent positions, such as a librarian in the city archives.

The union has no current plans for calling for what Seedhouse termed a “full-out” strike. “The main issue, pay equity, is a promise that was made to us back in 1992 and we don’t think we should have to strike to achieve what was already agreed to,” he said. No negotiations between the two sides are planned.

Posted January 18, 2008.