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Librarians seek employer response to counter-offer as VIRL strike hits Nanaimo

B.C. General Employees’ Union workers picket in front of Nanaimo Harbourfront Library
Corinne Shortridge and Dalia Levy were among the B.C. General Employees’ Union workers picketing in front of Harbourfront Library in Nanaimo on March 11. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

With no word from their employer regarding a contract counter-offer, librarians in Nanaimo are picketing in front of the Harbourfront branch today, March 11.

The picketing in Nanaimo is a resumption of job action, after B.C. General Employees’ Union workers paused job action March 10, said a press release. The union last responded to a Vancouver Island Regional Library offer through a Labour Relations Board mediator March 3, but has yet to hear back, the release noted.

“It’s been over a week since we heard from the employer – that’s not acceptable,” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president, in the release. “We want to return to negotiations and to work, serving our communities. We know service disruptions from job action are stressful for the community and so members paused job action Thursday in hopes the employer would take our action seriously and send an offer. We’re disappointed that hasn’t happened yet. VIRL’s management has the power to restore library services.”

In addition, striking workers are asking library patrons to join them on the picket line, or honour it by not crossing if the branch is open.

“We’ve received a response from the VIRL board, which we’re grateful for, but unfortunately it hasn’t resulted in a response from the employer,” the union said in the press release. “Until we do receive a fair offer to take back to members, the union is making plans on a day-by-day basis … We know the employer is making operational decisions during our job action and we hope to see them channel some of that energy towards resolving this issue.”

In a separate press release, David Carson, VIRL spokesperson, said the union’s offer was less than satisfactory.

The [BCGEU] Local 702 has counter-offered with wage increases greater than those the union had previously identified it would accept,” Carson said. “Vancouver Island Regional Library is disappointed that BCGEU appears to be moving away from the opportunity to achieve an agreement which is in the interest of all parties.”

The union announced Feb. 22 that 95 per cent of its membership voted in favour of job action and issued 72-hour strike notice Feb. 24.

– files from Sarah Simpson, Black Press Media

RELATED: Cowichan pickets could be start of rotating librarian job action

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