Vancouver Library Workers vote 71% to go back to work: state that important advances toward pay equity have been achieved

Vancouver Library Workers vote 71% to go back to work:
state that important advances toward pay equity have been achieved

Craig Searle, author Naomi Klein and Todd Wong – Klein visited the Library Square picket line to give words of support to the Vancouver library workers on Oct 5th.

Vancouver library workers voted today (Friday) to accept new changes to a contract proposal that included most of the Brian Foley mediator recommendations.  The vote was 71.4% in favour of the new contract.

(update) The Vancouver Public Library board ratified the agreement today, on Saturday morning.

The union meeting started at 10:30 am on Friday, and with questions went 15 minutes past the 12 noon starting time that had been designated for voting to start.  Voting went on until 6pm.

After the voting, some members went out to picket sites at Brittania Branch and Library Square.  Votes were taken back to CUPE 391 headquarters where the announcement was to have happened at 7pm.

I attended the meeting, and picket duty at Brittania Branch library.

It was an emotionally charged meeting where the CUPE 391 Bargaining committee expressed their reasons for urging the membership to accept these proposals.  While the agreement did not give the Vancouver library workers two of the main issues they fought hard for such as pay equity and part-time/auxilliary benefits, the bargaining committee was able to get a “Classification Committee” added.  While this is not the Pay Equity Committee that CUPE 391 was fighting for, it will basically provide a mechanism for the library workers to compare library job classifications with other comparable job classifications in other City of Vancouver unions.

Burnaby library workers did achieve the “job review committee” that Vancouver library workers wanted, but were denied by Vancouver Library Management.

Donn Stanley CUPE National assistant regional director and Jim Gorman CUPE National representative were also in attendance.  Stanley praised the CUPE 391 bargaining committee, stating that “You have to be proud of your bargaining committee.  They did and incredible job.” 

A heart-felt standing ovation by Vancouver library workers was then given to their union bargaining committee.  Donn Stanley Long stated how impressed he was by the creativity, dedication and solidarity of the Vancouver library workers. 

CUPE 391 President Alex Youngberg had just returned from a CUPE National conference in Toronto and told the membership that “Everybody knew about CUPE 391.  I am so proud of you all.”

“You all raised the bar for job action with your activities. 
Never before in labour history did strike action see knitters, puppet
shows, author readings, bicycle pickets…. and everything else you
did, like Word on the Strike.  Libraries and unions everywhere are
watching us.”

Time and time again, library workers stated how proud they were of their union brothers and sisters. At the same time, other library workers said they were bitterly disappointed at the library management's refusal to address pay equity, as well as part-time/auxiliary issues.

Many workers vowed a stronger commitment to the new friendships they had made while on the picket line, and to union issues. 

The Vancouver Public Library Board meets Saturday morning to ratify the agreement in order to make it official.

The Bargaining committee wrote this on the CUPE 391 website:

We are pleased to be back so that we can once again offer to the
citizens of Vancouver access to the great service that each and
everyone of the membership provides. Unfortunately, this is a
bittersweet sentiment, as more than half our membership have not had
this work fully recognized in this new collective agreement.
Nevertheless, the fight for our issues, in particular the fight for Pay
Equity, will continue beyond the venue of the bargaining table, and we
believe we will one day soon realize our goals.


Here is the CUPE 391 announcement that was released to the media

Attention News Editors:
Library strike ends: CUPE 391 makes important steps towards pay equity

    VANCOUVER, Oct. 19 /CNW/ – After 88 days on strike, CUPE 391 members have voted 71 per cent in favour of the tentative agreement reached yesterday
between bargaining representatives of the library workers' union and the
Vancouver Public Library (VPL). The VPL Board will be holding their
ratification vote tomorrow morning.
    The agreement was based on recommendations issued by mediator Brian
Foley: on
October 5, 2007 but included adjustments that were vital for the union before
the members could accept the deal. A primary adjustment was the addition of a
joint-committee on classification issues whereby the union can express their
pay equity concerns.
    “We've been saying all along that we went out on strike on a principle,”
says CUPE 391 President Alex Youngberg, “now we're going back on a principle.
We are going back knowing we have made important advances towards the
long-term goal achieving pay equity and paved the way to make further advances
in the future.”
    In addition to Foley's recommendations, the tentative agreement also
includes the:

    –   Inclusion of three more librarian positions into pay grade
        increases/wage adjustments.
    –   Expansion of benefit coverage to include orthodics.
    –   Improvements to the return to work agreement, including: maternity,
        paternity, adoption leave coverage; improvements on how to handle
        vacation upon return to work and extension of timeline on grievances.

    “We are looking forward to working with our employer to fully restore
public library services,” says Youngberg. The library workers are expected to
return to work as early as Wednesday, October 24, 2007.
    “The public is encouraged to approach us in the library and ask us about
pay equity. We'd be happy to tell you everything we know and point you to a
book or two on the subject.”
    CUPE 391 represents 770 library workers employed by the Vancouver Public
Library. This was their first strike in their 77-year history. It began on
July 26, 2007.

For further information: Alexandra Youngberg, CUPE 391 President, (604)
908-6095; Ed Dickson, CUPE 391 bargaining chair, (778) 840-0207; Diane Kalen,
CUPE Communications, (778) 229-0258,

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