VIRL union to set up picket lines Wednesday if no offer made: union

VIRL union to set up picket lines Wednesday if no offer made: union

A union representing workers at the Vancouver Island Regional Library says members will set up picket lines on Wednesday if no serious offer is made by the employer by then.

The union, B.C. General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) issued a strike notice on Feb. 28, meaning workers can go on strike at any time.

The library says an offer was made on March 1, but the union says it rejected the offer because  it “did not go far enough on wages given members’ working conditions.”

“It is regrettable that an agreement has not yet been achieved,” a statement from the library reads. “The latest VIRL proposal included two term options, each featuring compensation increases beyond those previously tabled, and an agreement would have included the numerous non-monetary provisions recently bargained.”

The union made a counteroffer to VIRL.

“Unless the employer comes back with a serious offer, pickets will be up at VIRL branches starting Wednesday, March 9,” said BCGEU President Stephanie Smith in a statement. “Librarians don’t want job action. They want respect from their employer. Yet all they’ve received is delays, unfair proposals and disrespectful treatment – and that’s just during bargaining.”

Union members sent an open letter to VIRL trustees, asking for a wage increase to align with the cost of living, and to reflect the added challenges the pandemic has brought to their jobs.

“Most of us became librarians because we care about community service and about literacy. We believe in access to information and literacy resources,” the letter says. “We also find ourselves on the frontlines, dealing with the impacts of poverty, addiction, climate and mental health crises.”

The previous contract for the workers expired Dec. 31, 2020, and negotiations for a new contract started in September 2021.

BCGEU Local 702 represents 12 per cent of workers at the VIRL, representing professional librarians and colleagues who work at 20 of 39 branches, and in Information Technology, Collections, and Support Services divisions.

Previously, CUPE Local 401 employees who represent 55 per cent of the workforce have said its workers will not cross picket lines should BCGEU members set one up.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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