Thursday April 7, 2022 | VANCOUVER ISLAND, BC
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
As the week began, the librarians who work within the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) system continued to be on strike. Picketing at branches around the island has continued through this week.
An ad campaign launched this week has amplified what the librarians of BC General Employee’s Union (BCGEU) Local 702 call “a fair contract” for “a fair wage mandate”. They’ve been asking for higher wages in light of the increasing cost of living that is impacting all British Columbians. In that sense they are spearheading what is likely to be a greater movement in the labour negotiations sector over the next few years.
As of Wednesday evening, April 6, the BCGEU had not received what they feel is an acceptable offer from the employer. Last night they announced further escalation of job action. Until now the picket lines have been at three, four or five branches at a time.
Yesterday the picket lines were at Cumberland, South Cowichan (Mill Bay), Chemainus, Parksville, and Qualicum Beach branches. Today April 7 the librarians will have picket lines at all three VIRL branches in Nanaimo (Nanaimo Harbourfront and Creativity Commons, Nanaimo North, and Nanaimo Wellington) as well as at the branches in Comox and Cowichan Lake. [Strike location updates posted on Island Social Trends Calendar]
Picket lines effectively mean the branches are closed to public use, as other employees as well (e.g. CUPE unionized workers) will not cross the picket line.
Addressing families about job action:
“The VIRL board has the power to authorize a wage proposal that would end this job action and get these librarians back to work,” said BCGEU President Stephanie Smith in a news release April 6. While the process of public input was sluggish at first, now apparently “dozens of library users” have written to VIRL board trustees “in support of a fair wage for VIRL librarians”.
“If the librarians are not invited back to the table by their employer by Saturday, they will provide a free story time event for families in Cumberland’s Village Square,” the BCGEU announced on April 6. They’re calling it “Stories & Crafts for Little Activists”.
VIRL board meeting April 9:
Meanwhile, on Saturday April 9, the VIRL board will be holding a public meeting on Zoom starting at 9:30 am. According to BCGEU, much of the VIRL April 9, 2022 agenda and consent package materials are related to support for VIRL librarians.
There is no specific agenda item about the strike. But there is an extensive list of VIRL’s assessment of local and regional news coverage about the ongoing strike. The agenda focuses on items around budget, capital planning, and reconciliation.
“We will be watching on Saturday to see if they step up and take the action their community is demanding,” said Smith last night.
VIRL board members are elected officials from each of the communities where VIRL library branches are located.
VIRL receives its revenues from taxes levied in the various communities around Vancouver Island where their branches are located. Most of the branches are in small rural communities. The taxes paid by property owners in each municipality are determined at most on an annual basis. That leaves VIRL without a lot of wiggle room at the present time.
Last night’s BCGEU news release took a new tack, focussing on what the union calls “lack of engagement” from VIRL Executive Director Ben Hyman, himself a former librarian.
VIRL hired Ben Hyman last year, in part because of his hands-on knowledge of the library system. Hyman was the founding Executive Director of the BC Libraries Cooperative (2011-2017) and before that worked with the Ministry of Education.
===== ABOUT THE WRITER:
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke has been following news of the Vancouver Island Regional Library system since 2008, in particular the long story of developing the new Sooke Library (2008 to 2022). Previous to Island Social Trends, the publication was West Shore Voice News (and before that the weekly Sooke Voice News, preceded by MapleLine Magazine).
===== RELATED ARTICLES by ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
BCGEU librarians start the week with moderate job action (March 29, with updates to April 6, 2022)
BCGEU pushing the VIRL envelope with 10 picket lines (March 26, 2022, with updates March 28 & 29, 2022)
BCGEU librarians reject latest VIRL offer & escalate strikes (March 24 & 25, 2022)
VIRL receives librarian counter-proposal (March 22, 2022)
Strike Day 16: picketing at Sooke Library (March 18, 2022)
VIRL hopes for counter-proposal soon (March 15, 2022)
VIRL librarians welcome BCGEU president at Sidney branch picket line (March 15, 2022)
VIRL postpones Sooke Library grand opening due to librarian strike (March 13, 2022)
Vancouver Island librarians going on strike (February 28, 2022)
New Sooke Library set to open after Family Day 2022 (February 10, 2022)
New VIRL executive director now 4-months-in (January 2, 2022)
Sooke Library now open for computer use, DVDs, takeout, reference (November 18, 2020)
Sooke Library construction gets underway mid-October (October 19, 2020)
Survey about new Sooke Library open to Nov 30 (October 8, 2020)
New day for Sooke: library construction to begin (September 22, 2020)
Sooke Library programs in January 2020 (January 1, 2020)
Sooke Library development dealing with permit hurdle (June 15, 2019)