This type of library website might be an all too familiar sight for residents of British Columbia, one of four Canadian provinces without pay equity legislation.
Just a few months after Vancouver librarians returned to the job after a strike, Greater Victoria’s nine public library branches are now closed indefinitely, leaving the public without services thanks to the lockout of almost 300 unionized workers.
It all began on September 7, when, after contract negotiations that had already been dragging on for eight months stalled, the union began escalating strike actions: rotating strikes, lunch hour closures, and waiving fines and fees for patrons.
No, on second thought, scratch that. It began over a decade ago, when, as part of an agreement that ended a 1992 strike, the GVPL board and CUPE 410 agreed to compare library jobs with comparable other city jobs and reclassify them to achieve pay (gender) equity between equivalent jobs. The “due date” on this agreement was extended from 1994 to 1996…and today in 2008 still has not been completed.
Oh, well, but really, it goes back waaay farther than that…to the concurrent feminization of the profession and market uptake of the Ford Motor Company’s $5/day “family wage” ideology — for male workers only. But that’s a topic expansion for another post, I suppose (the to-do list for the SJL blog just keeps growing…).
Back to 2008: Key issues in the current labour dispute in Victoria are…wait for it…treatment of auxiliaries and pay equity! Shocked aren’t you? Is it just me, or is this almost deja va all over again?
Weighing on my mind, also, is the issue of the Labour Relations Board telling library staff they cannot waive fines for patrons. Waiving fines when appropriate is important autonomy for library workers to have, in terms of institutional accessibility to poor, young, and other socially marginalized members of the community. While it could be argued that a campaign of mass fine-waiving to the tune of ~$50,000/month is a different issue from considering individual cases, I could say we are in slippery-slope territory with this one.
The CUPE local 410 website is keeping us posted. Today is day 415 without a contract, day 166 since strike actions began, and day 3 since the lockout began. The Overdue.ca website has a bunch of background info on the pay equity promise in Victoria, including a comparison study done in 2000 that shows the disparity between library jobs and comparable city hall jobs. Unsurprisingly, it’s the lowest paid/lowest status jobs (pages) that get screwed the most.