Vancouver Island Regional Library union issues strike notice

Vancouver Island Regional Library union issues strike notice
Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News

The union that represents 12 per cent of the workforce at Vancouver Island Regional Library has issued a strike notice, effective March 3.

The library says it has been in negotiations with the union since September 2021 for the collective agreement that ended December 31, 2020.

BC GEU Local 702 members voted 95 per cent in favour of a strike on Feb. 22, and strike notice was served Monday morning.

The union represents professional librarians and colleagues who work at 20 of 39 branches, and in Information Technology, Collections, and Support Services divisions, according to VIRL.

A statement from the library says the strikes may include primary, secondary or rotational picketing at VIRL locations.

Impacts to library services are anticipated but the library cannot outline specific impacts at this time.

Another library union representing 55 per cent of the workforce, CUPE Local 401 has indicated to the library it will honour any picket lines from BC GEU Local 207.

VIRL has 39 library branches on Vancouver Island from Sooke and Sidney in the south to Port Hardy, Haida Gwaii and the Central Coast.

Stephanie Smith, president of the B.C. General Employees’ Union, formerly the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, says the union initially had to ask the BC Labour Relations Board to require VIRL to start the bargaining process after the contract expired.

“We had to ask for the intervention of the Labor Relations Board in August of last year to compel the employer to come to the bargaining table and that’s why we began in September,” Smith said. “There were so many delays but it was it really was on the employer side we issued notice to bargain and we just didn’t get any agreement from the employer to meet.”

Smith says the negotiations entered mediation in January, then VIRL sent an offer which was rejected by their members.

She says members are asking for improvements which many other employees around the province have received.

“Things like occupational health and safety issues that came out of a number of things, both through the pandemic and previously,” Smith said

“Improving mental health resources for our members. But, just like all of our 1000s of B.C. GEU members who’ve been providing these incredibly important services over the course of the last two years, its cost of living. MLAs have their salaries, legislatively tied to address inflation. We think workers deserve the same.”

This story has been updated with comments from the union.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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