Home Organizations & Associations Vancouver Island Library Board VIRL hopes to end librarian strike impasse

VIRL hopes to end librarian strike impasse

Saturday April 9, 2022 | NANAIMO, BC [Strike timeline updated April 10, 2022]

by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends

This morning there was a Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) board meeting. At the same time, striking BCGEU librarians held an outdoor family reading time in Cumberland.

Other than five branches where were were BCGEU Local 702 picket lines (Cumberland, Cowichan Lake, Nanaimo Harbourfront and Creativity Commons, Nanaimo North, and Nanaimo Wellington), all the other VIRL branches remained open to the public for regular Saturday hours.

Getting back to negotiations:

Calling it “a productive discussion” at their Board of Trustees meeting today, VIRL says the organization is re-engaging the assigned Labour Relations Board mediator in hopes of ending the ongoing impasse and labour disruption impacting VIRL branches and communities.

“I know I speak for my fellow Trustees when I say we care deeply about all VIRL employees,” says Gaby Wickstrom, Chair of the VIRL Board of Trustees.

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VIRL Chair Gaby Wickstrom via Zoom during the April 9, 2022 board of trustees meeting.

“We are grateful for staff’s tireless commitment through the pandemic, and the many challenges they face in their service to the public,” says Wickstrom.

Last month the librarians in BCGEU Local 702 had been saying they felt under-appreciated during the additional load that the pandemic brought on.

Balancing financial burden on communities:

“As Trustees in charge of administering VIRL’s budget, part of our job is to ensure fair wage increases for staff while balancing the financial burden to our communities,” says the VIRL chair.

The VIRL budget is heavily dependent on taxes levied through all the municipalities where they have branches around Vancouver Island; about 80 percent of the branches are in smaller rural communities.

“The long shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbates these challenges, but the Board is confident that a resumption of cooperative bargaining will lead us to a mutually acceptable outcome,” she said.

monk office

BCGEU President Stephanie Smith said last month: “These trustees are also responsible to the people who elected them. It’s high time they got involved to help prevent the withdrawal of library services,” says Smith, who says Local 702 is looking for a “fair collective agreement”. On March 1 she called job action a last resort, but the union had escalated picket lines by month-end.

VIRL committed to ending the impasse:

joanna lord, stephanie smith, bcgeu
The VIRL librarians strike at the Sidney/North Saanich branch on March 15, 2022 was attended by Local 702 Chairperson Joanna Lord (left) and BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. [FB]

VIRL said in a news release today that it is “committed to ending this impasse at the bargaining table and is hopeful BCGEU will be amenable to recommencing discussions in the days ahead”.

“The next step will be to re-engage the mediator and find mutually agreeable dates and times for bargaining,” it is stated by VIRL in the April 9 new release.

Unpicketed VIRL branches have remained open:

VIRL considers it noteworthy that since the escalation of all BCGEU members being on strike as of March 30, that unpicketed VIRL branches have remained open and accessible thanks to the efforts of VIRL’s CUPE staff, including Circulation Supervisors, Library Assistants, and Information Technicians.

“These frontline CUPE staff and Library Pages have ensured our communities continue to receive critical library service, with non-branch support from CUPE and Exempt colleagues in numerous departments,” says VIRL Chair Wickstrom.

VIRL says it has made several attempts to end the impasse with what it believes are fair and competitive offers. “This has been a challenging time for all, and we sincerely regret the inconvenience to our communities and library users,” says Wickstrom today.

When bargaining dates are set, that will be announced by VIRL.

Strike timeline:

BCGEU issued strike notice on February 25 and picketing began on March 8 at rotating locations. Since then, the strike has escalated with all BCGEU members now on strike and multiple locations impacted daily.

bcgeu, librarians, ad

March 2022

Starting March 8 through 15, picket lines were held outside VIRL library branches, one day at at time, including: Duncan, Chemanius, Ladysmith and Sidney/North Saanich.

On March 16 there was a picket line at the Campbell River branch, and at the Port McNeill branch on March 17.

On Friday March 18 there were five locations with picket lines on that one day: Port Hardy, Comox, Qualicum Beach, Sooke, and South Cowichan.

monk office

On March 21 there were picket lines at Nanaimo North, Nanaimo Harbourfront, and Creativity Commons branches. On March 22 the picket lines are active at: Nanaimo Harbourfront and Creativity Commons, Campbell River, and Sidney/North Saanich.

On March 24 (and tomorrow March 25) the picket lines will see five branches closed: Campbell River, Courtenay, Cowichan (in Duncan), Nanaimo North, Sidney/North Saanich, and Sooke.

Saturday March 26: Lake Cowichan, Nanaimo North, Nanaimo Harbourfront, Creativity Commons, Port Alberni, Qualicum Beach, Port McNeill, Courtenay, Cowichan, and Sooke.

Monday March 28: Nanaimo North. Tuesday March 29: Cowichan Branch (Duncan).

Wednesday March 30: Comox, Ladysmith, Parksville, and Sooke branches.

Thursday March 31: Cumberland, Nanaimo Harbourfront, Qualicum Beach, and South Cowichan branches are closed due to strike action.

SFAS, show dates, 2022
Sooke Fine Arts Show 2022 is back as a live exhibit! July 22 through August 1.

April 2022

  • Friday April 1: several branches saw picket lines.
  • Saturday April 2: info to come
  • Sunday April 3: no picket lines / branches open for usual Sunday hours
  • Monday April 4: Courtenay, Cowichan, Ladysmith, and Port Alberni branches are closed due to picketing.
  • Tuesday April 5: Campbell River, Sooke, Gabriola Island and Qualicum Beach branches closed due to picketing.
  • Wednesday April 6: Cumberland, South Cowichan (Mill Bay), Chemainus, Parksville, and Qualicum Beach.
  • Thursday April 7: (to come)
  • Friday April 8: Quadra Island, Sidney/North Saanich, Nanaimo Harbourfront and Creativity Commons, Nanaimo North, and Nanaimo Wellington.
  • Saturday April 9: Cumberland, Cowichan Lake, Nanaimo Harbourfront and Creativity Commons, Nanaimo North, and Nanaimo Wellington.
  • Sunday April 10: No scheduled pickets. Branches are open per regular Sunday hours.

===== LINKS:

VIRL strike updates | VIRL news releases | BCGEU news updates | BCGEU librarian strike updates

virl, sooke, opening


Mary Brooke, editor, West Shore Voice News
Mary P Brooke, Editor and Publisher, Island Social Trends.

Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke has been covering the long saga of the new Sooke Library development since 2009, and more broadly the news of the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL).

News was first published in MapleLine Magazine, then Sooke Voice News, and West Shore Voice News before that publication series morphed into the region-wide online news portal at www.islandsocialtrends.ca .


Vancouver Island librarians continue their strike (April 7, 2022)

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)

sooke fine arts, 2022
Sooke Fine Arts Show 2022 – Call to Artists – Open to May 24, 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)

VIRL offer to Local 702 librarians includes non-monetary provisions (March 4, 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)