Tag Archives: GVPL

Victoria Library Lockout resolved

To make this a weekend foll of follow-up, let me note that the six week Victoria Library Lockout in BC has been resolved, and the libraries are well on their way to being open to the public once more.

And while I’m not sure the “pay equity issue” is once and for all resolved and put to rest, the way the Globe and Mail seems to be, it does sound like this resolution was a great victory for the library staff, and a big step toward pay equity.

The nuts & bolts are a 4 year contract (meaning, I believe, that this contract will end the same time as several other CUPE library locals in BC…namely the others that were on strike this past autumn), some new FT positions, wages increasing over the contract, and a larger pay increase for those terribly underpaid pages at the bottom of the payscale. For those of us who believe the devil is usually in the details, here’s the Memorandum of Settlement so you can scour the details.

As CUPE spokesman Ed Seedhouse told Library Journal this agreement was a compromise. Isn’t it always. But, to paraphrase Seedhouse again, this agreement really is a milestone.

Congratulations CUPE 410!

And thanks to the local Greater Victoria community for all your support of your libraries. I especially enjoyed and appreciated the video footage of the storytime sit-in at the Labour Relations Board! (link via Union Librarian)

And BC public library staff, I will be among the many interested watchers and supporters in 2012 when all these current, hard-won contracts are up. Hopefully in the post-Olympics era, we will have an easier time with our priorities, such as a living wage and gender equity.


Previous posts on the lockout here and here.


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Victoria Library Lockout & the Lazy Doctor’s approach to Pay Equity

Last week’s Victoria Times Colonist featured an update on the library lockout, “As library lockout drags on, employer’s side says it will examine wages paid elsewhere.

The management says they’re going to take a few weeks to gather data on payscales for similar jobs in other library systems around the province, such as Vancouver, Richmond, and Burnaby, in order to determine whether what they are offering CUPE 410 members is reasonable. (Not sure why they’re not just asking CUPE for the data, since it appears the union collected it all last summer anyway for this report…but a number of contracts *have* been renegotiated since July, so I’ll give them that.)

Sounds fair, right?


Comparing wages in one municipality riddled with labour disputes, situated within one of the minority provinces with no pay equity legislation, to another municipality in the same boat will only serve to maintain the status quo. Matching undervalued jobs in City A with the same undervalued jobs in City B will not achieve pay equity. To say it will is, frankly, a ridiculous proposition!

The Lazy Doctor: Defining down the standard

I asked one of my best friends,who also happens to be someone with experience with labour unions and gender equity stuff, what he thought of the situation, and he likened it to a lazy doctor. As in, you go to the doctor because you have some problem — say you’ve had a migraine for a month now and it’s really affecting your life. And rather than examining you, ordering diagnostic tests, and trying to treat your ailment, the doctor says,

“Well, listen guy, you think you’re the only one? This headache you have, it’s not a problem. You only think it’s a problem. There are lots of other people out there with headaches, and they’re mostly still alive. You think you have it bad? I see patients nearly every day who are practically bleeding to death on my floor! What you have is not a problem; it’s pretty normal. Just ignore it and you’ll (probably) be fine.”

Said friend called this “actively defining down that standard,” and when I went “?!?!?” in response he explained that, basically, instead of acknowledging that you have a problem and helping you get better, the doctor is redefining your problem as a perfectly acceptable norm.

Sounds like a pretty reasonable description of what’s going on here in libraryland to me.

Why isn’t the Victoria Public Library board comparing their staff wages with those in a region with actual pay equity?

For that matter, why have they apparently given up on their within-municipality equity comparison?

Oh, right… those type of comparisons would probably necessitate actual change. Such as meeting over the bargaining table, an activity I am given to understand hasn’t happened in a while.

From the numbers readily available, the pay for, say, an “L1” type position (entry level professional Librarian: far from the bottom of the payscale, but not exactly the top either) in Victoria doesn’t look worse than Vancouver, and looks perhaps a bit nicer than some smaller, suburban library systems in the region. Does this mean that Victoria is doing a good job, if they pay as well as Vancouver?


Vancouver, quite possibly the highest-paying of the listed comparator systems, is still recovering from a several-month strike in which the main issue was pay equity.

The Difference Legislation Appears to Make

And oh, those greedy Vancouver librarians! If they indeed *are* the most highly paid in this comparison (which I really can’t say – I only took a quick peek at recent job postings I could find, which in no way resembles a thorough or comprehensive comparison), are they just terribly greedy to have the gall have been on strike for more? Should they have stopped their snivelling and just put up with making >$7 an hour less than librarians at the Toronto Public Library (According to CUPE 391)?

Wait, why do those Toronto librarians make such a darned decent-seeming wage? Oh, riiight. Ontario has pay equity legislation….

As the Ontario Pay Equity Commission clearly states in their “Overview of the Pay Equity Act,”

Pay Equity is “equal pay for work of equal value”. The Pay Equity Act requires that jobs be evaluated and work mostly or traditionally done by women be compared to work mostly or traditionally done by men….
If jobs are of comparable value, then female jobs must be paid at least the same as male jobs. Female jobs are mostly or traditionally done by women such as librarian, childcare worker or secretary. Male jobs are mostly or traditionally done by men such as truck driver, firefighter or shipper.

The same overview states that two of the general principles on which the Pay Equity Act is based are:

“Female job classes”, or jobs performed mainly by women, are compared to “male job classes”, or jobs performed mainly by men. These jobs may be quite different.


Where a female job class is found to be of equal or comparable value to a male job class, the female job class must be provided with at least the same compensation as the male job class.

“Female job classes” are to be compared to “male job classes”…hmm…do you think it could be stated more clearly? Comparing undervalued feminized jobs with undervalued feminized jobs is an exercise in maintaining the status quo, not a move of any sort toward pay equity!

BC Library folk, maybe it’s time to really think about joining forces with some other groups for a new push for pay equity legislation similar to that in other provinces. Because if the past year is any indication, library staff are going to keep getting brushed off, ignored and underpaid until the province has something along the lines of what others do: pay equity legislation. (I’m sure there’s some BC labour history here of which I as a relatively recent immigrant am woefully ignorant, so feel free to comment and fill me in…)


Previous post on the lockout can be found here.

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Filed under gender, labour issues, The Profession

Greater Victoria Library Lockout

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.

Let’s speak in solidarity with our library sistren.*
*Yes, sistren is a word, albeit an archaic one. Brethren just didn’t sound right when talking about pay equity, you know, and according to AskOxford.com, sistren was the Middle English equivalent of brethren that has been “revived” by some feminists, so have at it.
Follow-up post can be found here.


Filed under gender, labour issues, The Profession