March 23, 2018

No Progress in Long-running Vancouver Library Strike

By Jennifer Pinkowski

Vancouver Public Library doors remain shut more than 30 days into a labor strike by library staffers and municipal employees, and now VPL director Paul Whitney and CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) Local 391 president Alex Youngberg are trading barbs in the press about the terms of the latest contract offer on the table. Characterizing Whitney’s description of the offer as "insane," Youngberg disputed that Local 391, which represents library staffers, was asking for a 40 percent wage increase, as Whitney told Georgia Straight, a Vancouver weekly newspaper. "He’s not giving librarians a very good reputation as far as math goes," she told the newspaper.
According to Youngberg, if the city agreed to all of the terms in the Local 391’s latest offer, staffers would see a 29.5 percent increase in wages and benefits over a nine-year period. But Whitney argued that some of the contract’s terms, such as an additional 4.5 percent wage increase for librarians and lowering the threshhold at which part-time employees can qualify for benefits, add up to "a lot of money," Whitney said. "We were pretty significantly taken aback by their latest offer."
The union offer includes provisions for pay equity that seek to redress gender imbalances in city-employee wages—a sticking point in the negotiations. An entry-level library staffer earns $15.31 CDN an hour, while the entry-level wage for other city employees is more than $20 an hour. "This is a female-dominated work force, this is long overdue," Youngberg told LJ last month.Whitney supplied the newspaper with entry-level librarian wage statistics from nine large Canadian cities. With an average hourly rate of $24.41, entry-level librarians in Vancouver earn the fourth-highest wages in the country. (Toronto librarians earn the most at $30.84 hour.)
CUPE members are writing a day-by-day account of the strike on their Bargaining Blog. The sympathetic Union Librarian blog, run by Kathleen de la Peña McCook, a professor of library and information science at the University of South Florida, Tampa, is tracking developments in Vancouver as well.

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