After a week of system-wide strike action and two weeks without an offer from their employer, members of the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) working as librarians for the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) are further escalating their job action.
Beginning on Thursday, April 7, all three VIRL branches in Nanaimo plus VIRL branches in Comox and Cowichan Lake will be behind picket lines.
This will add to the current picket lines that were established last Wednesday morning, March 30, at 7 a.m., when the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) said all members working for the VIRL are officially on strike.
Picket lines were set up at four locations for all union employees, including at the Comox, Ladysmith, Parksville, and Sooke branches.
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.
If the librarians are not invited back to the table by their employer by Saturday, they will provide a free storytime event for families in Cumberland’s Village Square.
As part of the latest job action, BCGEU says it has also launched an ad campaign on Vancouver Island, which includes print, web, radio and billboard ads calling on the VIRL Board to authorize a fair wage mandate.
“Librarians care deeply about serving their communities, and throughout the challenges of bargaining and job action, their communities have shown up for them,” said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. “The librarians’ ‘Stories & Crafts for Little Activists’ event this weekend is both a show of gratitude and a reaffirmation of their solidarity and their commitment to their profession.”
As the labour dispute enters its second month, the BCGEU librarians are disappointed at the lack of engagement from their boss, VIRL Executive Director Ben Hyman, a former librarian.
“Our members were excited when Ben took over as executive director,” said Smith. “They had high hopes that a leader who had worked in their profession would understand the challenges they face and his talk about developing a resilient, strategic, citizen-centric library service just strengthened those hopes. Unfortunately, he has shown no indication that he is willing to back up his talk with concrete actions to support our members.”
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.
In-person and online services at all VIRL branches are expected to be impacted by the ongoing job action.