Mediation recommendations: what's going to happen with the CUPE 391 library workers?
Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, came to speak to Vancouver library workers on Friday, giving her support for pay equity, stating that library workers have been under-valued. photo Beth Lowther
Mediator Brian Foley, published and gave his recommendations to resolve the Vancouver civic strike with City Inside, City Outside, and City Library Workers on Friday morning Oct 5th. By 4pm, we had a CBC television news reporter asking library workers for comment. Our library workers refused to give a comment, as did union members working at the union office.
On the Friday afternoon picket line, we hadn't seen the document yet, but the CBC television reporter gave us the 39 page document and said there is a 17.5 percent increase over five years, a $1000 signing bonus, whistle blower protection, and agreement for contracting out.
Well, the whistle blower protection wasn't one of our issues, nor were the first 32 pages applicable to the library. Only the final 7 pagers addressed the library issues. We have the smallest 800 member union. And it has been typical that library workers have been seen as the most docile, least protesting – yet underpaid, and under-valued city workers. This is our first strike in our 77 year union history.
Our library workers did not give the CBC reporter any comment about the recommendations, stating that we would wait for our union bargaining committee to discuss it with us at our planned Sunday meeting, and that we picketed for 70+ days already, we were cautiously optimistic and not going to rush things. I did give general statements that we were disappointed with city management keeping this strike going for so long, especially since city councilor Raymond Louie had called for mediation back on August 1st. And I one of my statements was included on Friday night's evening news…. as I was holding my accordion.
This has been an unnecessary strike as the library bargaining committee kept refusing to address union issues, and walking away from the bargaining table. It is unconsciencable that Library management did not make an opening contract proposal until 2 weeks into the strike, 8 months after the contract expired on Dec 16, 2006.
At a meeting on Sunday morning, CUPE 391 bargaining committee recommended to its membership to reject the mediator Brian Foley's recommendations. General comments were that the recommendations were lopsided in favour of the Library management, and that the mediator did not understand the issue of pay equity.
In a Vancouver Sun interview published on Saturday, Foley said that he thought it best to address pay equity by “give them the damn money” by giving 40% of the library workers a one pay grade increase, but without any explanation why specific job positions were selected. It did not make any sense to the 300+ library workers gathered.
The $1000 signing bonus was also laughed off as bribe. Conditions were that it would be pro-rated according to hours worked per week, from January 1st to July 25th. But questions came up as to the minimum per week that had to be required, as well as job shares, or for part-time workers. Signing bonuses for these workers would then be reduced to less than $500 or as low as $200, then take away the tax on that and the $1000 signing bonus is virtually worthless. The union had asked for a $2500 bonus.
The good thing is that any of the increases were all dated to January 1st for each year. The Library bargaining committee has each time tried to move raises to later dates in the year. Foley did not allow that to happen.
Vancouver library workers have said all along, that this strike is not about the money. It is a given that 17.5% would be the benchmark, as it was accepted by neighboring cities and library workers. This strike has been about fairness, respect and pay equity. Not one of these issues was addressed by Brian Foley's mediated recommendations. Expect Vancouver library workers to reject his recommendations.
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