BURNABY, B.C. (COAST SALISH TERRITORIES) – After more than a week 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 escalating their job action. As of 7:00 am Wednesday, March 30th, all BCGEU members working as VIRL employees will be on strike. In person and virtual services at all VIRL branches will be affected. Some branches will be behind picket lines, other branches will be operating but will not have librarians available.
“This has been an exceptionally challenging round of bargaining from the very beginning,” said Stephanie Smith. “BCGEU members have been professional, creative and flexible in an attempt to get a deal that meets their needs and makes sure their libraries are the vibrant, diverse, welcoming spaces communities rely on. Their solidarity is strong and they’ve had great support from library users. Now all we need is for their employer to step up with a fair offer.”
At mediation on March 23rd, VIRL tabled a wage proposal that improved on previous proposals but still fell short of what is needed to align VIRL librarians’ wages with those of their counterparts in comparable library systems or to account for the rising cost of living. The employer walked away from the union’s counterproposal the same day. The two sides have not met for negotiations since.
“I want to be clear, our wage ask is reasonable given the skyrocketing cost of living on Vancouver Island and the wage increase the VIRL board has already approved for the system’s executives,” said Smith. “And our wage ask is affordable within VIRL’s existing budget. Quite frankly, since the VIRL Board of Trustees are willing to approve increases for executive salaries, new facilities, branch renovations and books, it’s shocking that they are not willing to do so for librarians.”
In a March 17th letter to the VIRL board, librarians shared research showing that, of all regional library systems in B.C., VIRL librarians are the lowest paid and its executives are among the highest paid. Furthermore, since 2018, VIRL has created nine new executive positions – one of which is filled by an out-of-province employee – and those executives received substantial salary increases in 2020 – the same year the librarians’ collective agreement expired.
“Librarians don’t want to be on picket lines. They want to get back to the work they love – serving their community,” said Smith. “But without a fair offer librarians have no other choice but to escalate. VIRL has the power to end this job action at any moment and they know that.”
For more information, including previous media releases and picket updates, visit www.bcgeu.ca/virl.
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The BCGEU is B.C.'s most dynamic, diverse, and fastest growing union -- representing more than 82,000 members who work in every sector of the economy and live in every community across the province including the 48 librarians who work for the Vancouver Island Regional Library.