After over a month of job action, BCGEU-represented librarians are back on the job at Vancouver Island Regional Library following ratification of a new four-year contract.
Nearly 90 per cent of the 48 librarians working for VIRL and represented by BCGEU ratified the collective agreement on April 19. VIRL’s board of trustees unanimously voted to accept the ratified offer the next day, bringing an end to six weeks of rotating picket lines across the library system’s 39 branches.
The new agreement is retroactive to Dec. 31, 2020 and expires Dec. 31, 2024. The agreement includes improved terms for parental leave, workload and workplace harassment, BCGEU says. It also includes a three per cent wage increase each year of the agreement as well as a $500 signing bonus for all active employees.
Via press release, BCGEU called the wage increases a step toward “closing the wage gap between VIRL librarians and those working for other, comparable regional library systems” in B.C. The union did not respond as of press time if it intends to continue to pursue parity with other systems when the next contract negotiations are due to begin.
In-branch and virtual programs and services, reference questions and other librarian services have now resumed at VIRL branches.
"As a library system, we sincerely regret the impacts and inconveniences the strike created for our communities and staff alike,” VIRL’s executive director, Ben Hyman, said. “Collective bargaining is a highly relational process, best done in person. In this context, COVID first delayed and then frustrated the process in tangible ways. We are a learning organization, and from this experience, we have renewed our commitment to co-creating and centring culture in our workplace. Timely, fair and sustainable agreements are in the interests of everyone."
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder