The union representing striking librarians says it has gone more than a week without a new offer from the Vancouver Island Regional Library and therefore job action will escalate once again.
As of Wednesday morning, March 30, at 7 a.m., the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) says all members working for the VIRL are officially on strike.
This is expected to impact in-person and online services at all VIRL branches.
Picket lines are being set up at four locations for all union employees. These branches include Comox, Ladysmith, Parksville, and Sooke.
The BCGEU says that branches without picket lines will be open to the public, however, no librarians will be available as a result of the job action.
“This has been an exceptionally challenging round of bargaining from the very beginning,” said Stephanie Smith. “BCGEU members have been professional, creative and flexible in an attempt to get a deal that meets their needs and makes sure their libraries are the vibrant, diverse, welcoming spaces communities rely on. Their solidarity is strong and they’ve had great support from library users. Now, all we need is for their employer to step up with a fair offer.”
Union members are asking for a wage increase to align with the higher cost of living as well as wages that align with their counterparts in similar library systems.
At mediation on March 23, VIRL says that it offered the union a four-year proposal within the BCGEU-specified range however the BCGEU rejected the proposal, suggesting it fell short of its demands.
The two sides have not met for negotiations since, which triggered the BCGEU to escalate its service-impacting strike.
Vancouver Island Regional Library, among its 39 branches, only has 48 librarians. They’re required to have a Master’s degree and their current pay ranges from $59,000 to $80,000 per year depending on years of service and classification.
“It’s incumbent on us to make sure that any agreement that we do reach is sustainable for our communities and we’re really trying to balance that. What can communities reasonably sustain and how can we fairly compensate our librarians for the important work that they do?” said David Carson, VIRL’s Director of Corporate Communications and Strategic Initiatives.
The workers, represented by BC General Employees’ Union, have been striking since March 9 with rotating picket lines at different branches.
The previous contract for the workers expired on December 31, 2020, and negotiations for a new contract started last September.