There may be a few glitches, but the doors to Vernon’s new library are still scheduled to open Saturday despite looming strike action.
“Unless things change overnight everything is going forward,” said Lesley Dieno, Okanagan Regional Library executive director. “We think Vernon is still going to be open on May 5.”
After more than six months of negotiations, library workers in the Okanagan are prepared to strike. CUPE 1123 represents over 150 library workers (87 full time equivalents). Union branches include Cherryville, Lake Country and Vernon (which is currently closed in preparation for the move).
No libraries will be closed, but rotating job action will begin with four information technology department workers striking until May 8.
“IT is working to put some of the computer equipment into place now,” said Dieno, adding that there is one exempt person who can tend to IT problems during the rotation. “They’ll do whatever they can prior to going onto strike from May 3 to 8.”
CUPE 1123 gave 72-hour strike notice Monday and will be in a legal strike position at 8:45 a.m. on Thursday, unless a deal is reached before then. But no meetings are scheduled, therefore it isn’t likely a deal will be made in time.
Rose Jurkic, president of CUPE 1123 and a bargaining committee member, says while no libraries will close their doors, library workers will no longer be collecting fines or working overtime.
“We know that libraries are extremely important in all of the communities we work in,” said Jurkic. “People depend on the services that library workers provide and that is why we are making every effort to keep our doors open. We love our jobs and are proud of the front-line services we provide. What we are asking for is our employer to treat us with respect.”
Jurkic points out that library workers in the Okanagan haven’t had any improvements to their benefit package in 20 years. This is one of the last issues left to be worked out, according to Jurkic.
“Our last offer on the table was well within the library board’s budget,” said Jurkic. “When the employer refuses to bargain, unions only have one tool – and that’s the withdrawal of service.”
Okanagan library workers voted 96 per cent in favour of a strike in March. CUPE 1123 members have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2010.
“The board has made what they believe is a fair offer,” said Dieno. “The board has done their best and CUPE has done their best, unfortunately there is an outstanding disagreement there.”
The strike will affect some customers as fees will not be collected during the strike. This primarily affects those with fees over $20, whose accounts are blocked, meaning they cannot pay in order to borrow more books. Such customers can clear their account by mailing a cheque to cover late fees to the ORL Administration Centre at 1430 KLO Road, Kelowna, B.C., V1W 3P6 to the attention of ‘Late Fees.’