Vancouver Island Regional Library’s union employees may begin job action as early as Thursday, March 3.
The collective agreement between the VIRL and BC General Employees’ Union Local 702 expired on Dec. 31, 2020 and the two sides have been bargaining since September 2021.
On Feb. 22 the union — which represents 42 full time employees, or 12 per cent of VIRL’s permanent workforce — announced it had voted 95 per cent in favour of job action and two days later, the BCGEU served 72-hour strike notice.
VIRL’s CUPE Local 401 employees, which represents 55 per cent of VIRL’s permanent workforce — will honour any BCGEU picket lines. Near the end of 2021, VIRL had jointly ratified a Collective Agreement with CUPE 401.
“Job action may include primary, secondary or rotational picketing at VIRL locations,” said a press release issued by David Carson, the director of corporate communications for VIRL. “As a result, we regret that VIRL’s service delivery will be impacted, though precise impacts remain unclear at this time. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and commit to continuing constructive efforts towards bargaining resolution with our valued colleagues.”
VIRL employees who belong to BCGEU Local 702 are professional librarians and colleagues who work at 20 of 39 branches, and in the VIRL’s Information Technology, Collections, and Support Services divisions.
“Librarians don’t want job action,” said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. “What they want is a fair collective agreement that recognizes the value of their work to the communities they serve, protects their wages from sky-rocketing inflation, and gives them the safe, healthy workplaces they deserve. What they’ve gotten from their employer so far is unnecessary delays and proposals that can only be described as disrespectful. It’s unacceptable.”
Of VIRL’s 2022 operating budget of $31 million, 95 per cent is fixed costs and 65 per cent of those are wages and benefits.