February 17, 2018

Regina, Canada Library Workers Won’t Collect Fines

Workers at Canada’s Regina Public Library walked off the job at 4 p.m. on May 28 to stage a rally outside of Regina City Hall. The 180 members of CUPE 1594 (all of the library’s employees except  management and anyone whose salary is funded by another branch of government) asked the library board to return to the negotiating table after well over two years without a contract.

Jeff Barber, library director & CEO, told LJ that “in spite of ‘expiring’ some months ago, it [the contract] remains in force until replaced.” Barber also said, “The Library has extended an invitation to CUPE [to come back to the table] but has not yet received a response.”

In early April, the library board presented its final offer, and cancelled talks scheduled for April 10, according to local radio station Newstalk650. Barber declined to explain why the board had canceled the April 10th talks, because “it would involve discussion of specific issues in the negotiation.” He also declined to comment on the details of the library’s offer.

Unresolved issues include library staff being asked to work longer hours on Sundays for less pay and cuts to health and dental benefits for new, part-time employees.

The library staff were back at their posts Tuesday, but business isn’t quite as usual: workers are refusing to collect fines as part of strike action, according to the Leader-Post. Overdue fees will still accumulate, but patrons with fines will be able to return their overdue items and borrow books.

Debbie Mihial, president of CUPE local 1594, said the point is to implement a strike action which puts pressure on the library board but avoids hurting patrons.

“I have been told by some of our members that managers have told them this is not something we’re legally allowed to do, however this is a legal form of strike activity … according to the Trade Union Act, so we will continue to do this,” The Leader-Post quoted Mihial as saying.

The union has not ruled out closing branches in the future.

According to the CUPE website, the library staff has not seen a wage increase since 2009, and negotiations didn’t start until more than seven months after the previous contract expired. The union also says Regina Public Library has the highest expenditures per capita of all libraries in Canada but is ranked fifth lowest in expenditures on salaries. The library’s 2012 budget calls for $10,511,400 Canadian dollars to be spent on wages, benefits, training and honoraria, down from $10,641,700 in the 2011 budget.

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz (mschwartz@mediasourceinc.com) is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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  1. Very tellingly, 2011 Library Journal “Mover & Shaker” Ryan Deschamps was a casualty of the current administration, being fired less than a year after coming to RPL as a highly touted new hire.