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Shhhhhhh – whisper: is it ok to talk loud?

Oops – I guess I just fell into one of the general stereotypes about you.

But shhhhh anyway. Can you hear it? There’s a debate going on. Our national party leaders battling it our on national television.

But I have a feeling they should be listening to you.

You have a voice – and you are here to make it heard, together, even louder.

And I want to thank you for inviting me here to speak with you today. And I can assure you, these are not former Australian Prime Minister Howard’s words.

It’s a pleasure to be here in Burnaby for your first ever Western Library Conference. Not that long ago I was in Calgary for the 12th Western Municipal Conference in June, like in the case of municipal workers, I think it is a forum suited for you.

And I am glad to see you’re being less quiet than usual.

You are not alone. Not only in CUPE are we celebrating your work and sharing your wealth of experience.

Just this past summer, Quebec hosted the World Library Conference, where 4,000 library workers from 150 countries gathered to do much what you are doing at this conference.

Meeting to share ideas, to talk about trends and strategize to defend your services and the value they bring to civilization. And above all, to make your collective voice heard.

You are doing this here for the western provinces, and some of you have been doing it globally, in events like the world congress.

And I want to take a moment to thank the staff, because in addition to some sponsorship of speakers at your conference, to the tune of several thousand dollars, your national union is supporting you in many ways.

Through our communications branch, who helped develop your materials, and a video that’s available on our website and You Tube, as well as pamphlets you see before you, highlighting the library sector in CUPE, our presence is strong.

I also want to thank staff who worked on organizing this conference, both at CUPE BC and CUPE National.

You know in the west we have CUPE national library coordinators in three out of four provinces. I want to thank them for their work and activism with you, in British Columbia that would be brother Jim Gorman, in Alberta Sister Daunine Rachert and in Saskatchewan Brother Peter Tartsch.

It just goes to show you how much CUPE is a leader in representing library workers, and defending public library services across the country.

CUPE has a very strong presence in Canada’s library sector. I’ll just share some facts and figures with you about this sector.

In 2007 there were close to 35,000 library workers in Canada; this number includes librarians, library clerks, and library archive technicians and assistants, working both full- and part-time.

Of this number, CUPE represents more than 16,000 library workers working in 8 economic sectors, or 47.0% of all library workers in Canada.

I refer to 8 economic sectors. Here’s another stereotype: Library workers work only in Public Librairies.

The majority of CUPE library members, almost 10,000, or 60% of all CUPE library members, work in the Public Library sector. Others work in schools, universities, and other institutions.

The majority of CUPE organized public libraries (44) are found in Ontario followed by British Columbia (20).

New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are the only two provinces where CUPE does not represent public library workers.

The library labour force is made up mostly of women. In 2007, women comprised 85% of Canada’s total library workforce. By comparison, the total number of men working in the library sector averaged 15%, a fact we see clearly in this room.

The average hourly wage for a CUPE librarian is $27.96; $22.36 for a CUPE library archive technician and assistant; and $19.28 for a CUPE library clerk. The average annual incomes of CUPE library workers are either on par with or exceed the national average for all library workers in Canada.

Recently negotiated wages range between 2% and 5%.

I’m a Treasurer, sorry for that plethora of numbers I’ve just served you. It’s my alphabet soup!

Libraries also face Privatization Threats: in Ontario – the primary privatization threats are the contracting out of bibliographical services such as ordering, processing, cataloguing material, and technology. Some libraries have contracted out some of these services while others are considering it.

In British Columbia – there are rumors at several libraries that acquisitions and cataloguing could be contracted out. Local 391 Vancouver Public Library had a partial success last year. The employer contracted out the bindery, but the local was able to negotiate no job losses and the former bindery workers retained their higher wages.

Recent Strikes / Lockouts in West – Major issue again, was pay equity

In British Columbia:

Local 391, the Vancouver Public Library, went on strike for 88 days in 2007; pay equity was the major issue. A mediated settlement provided for the addition of a joint-committee on classification issues where the local can express its pay equity concerns. Other improvements included expanded benefit coverage and improvements to return-to-work provisions such as maternity, parental and adoption leave coverage.

Local 410, Greater Victoria Public Library, was locked out for almost 6 weeks earlier this year with pay equity as the major stumbling block to a settlement. The local was successful in achieving a four-year contract that includes pay equity with other municipal workers, 9 new full-time positions, and a 12% wage increase.

Many of you have made great strides on the issue of pay equity.

Local 3966, Richmond Library workers made progress this spring on behalf of their members, and campaigns have been mounted by Saskatchewan Library workers, and Greater Vancouver Libraries, among others, and if you don’t mind, I’ll share with you a very recent success story from the east, where Toronto Public Libraries reached a 20 million dollar pay equity settlement this summer that will see incomes rise for our members there, and it’s retroactive to 2004.

Also on the bargaining front, I want to salute Nelson Municipal Library workers, CUPE 339, who recently ratified a new contract reflecting the increased cost of living in Nelson, with wage increases of 4 and 3% a year until 2012. The agreement also includes improved union leave that includes provisions for First National and Aboriginal organizations.

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of being not too far from there, when we had the official opening of our Cranbrook Office, serving the Kootenays, and I also had the pleasure of attending the Kootenay District Council meeting in Creston, on the occasion of their 45th anniversary.

I’m sure you will hear more stories from each other during your conference, to inspire each other and share tactics and ideas.


Have you read any great books lately?

One that’s on my reading list is likely of interest to you.

You may have read The Library at Night, an internationally acclaimed book written by one of your own, Alberto Manguel. Born in Buenos Aires, Manguel moved to Canada in 1982, but now lives in France, where he was named an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters.

In this book, Manguel focuses The Library at Night on his own experience - and his own library, which he built in France around the remnants of a fifteenth-century barn he began to fill with his tens of thousands of books in the summer of 2003.

From the design of the structure, to the placement and order of the books, as well as what kind of books they are, Manguel describes his own library and experiences, and shares his great book-knowledge, leading us on a pleasant journey across times and places, exploring the history of book-collections and the people behind them, libraries and the books in them.

I am confident many of you have already read it. The book’s premise reminds me of the work you do, building libraries in your community’s day in and day out.

Because libraries are a living being – not bricks and mortar only. They are made of the collections they contain, and most of all, of the people who enter and learn, share, grow and most of all, enjoy that glorious activity you all promote in our culture and society – reading.

In fact, you really are the people who bring life to our libraries, through your work, your fostering, your dedication and your care of our most precious resources.

So as you gather this weekend to share ideas about promoting and defending the important work you do, I salute you and want you to know that CUPE will continue to be right there with you, defending public libraries, lobbying for more public support and putting governments on notice.

Together, we will continue to fight library cuts, as the economy goes through its pitfalls and valleys, as it has lately, because now, more than ever, we need more libraries – not less.

Investing in our communities, promoting literacy, instilling a joy of reading, and enriching our civilization, is something you do as naturally as breathing, and it’s something CUPE will continue to do with you.

On that note, I wish you a great conference.


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