CUPE 2974 has filed a bad faith bargaining complaint against the Essex County Library Board with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB), and has requested an expedited hearing in light of the urgency of the situation with the library strike lasting 53 days and counting, resulting in all 14 library branches in Essex County being closed all summer.

“Our complaint is based on the fact that the library board has provided no rationale or justification for its sick leave change position and they have not been bargaining, just dictating,” said Lori Wightman, spokesperson for CUPE 2974. “How can there be any meaningful bargaining when we are told that the employer’s position is supposedly ‘carved in stone?’ They’ve provided no explanation for their position – aside from this is a ‘direction from the County.’

CUPE has made five counter-proposals to management’s sick time demands while the library board has not changed its sick time position since prior to the strike. On August 8, the employer returned to the mediation talks with the same sick time position that they held on June 22, three days prior to the strike. Needless to say, mediation talks failed. The 58 library workers have been on strike since June 25 over a phantom sick time issue that even management admits is not a problem at the libraries.

“All through bargaining, before and during the strike, the employer kept repeating that their sick time demand is a directive from the county for the purpose of impacting other collective bargaining units with other county workers,” continued Wightman. “The library board is forgetting that the county is not the employer, but a funder of Essex County Library.” Essex County attempted, through interest arbitration, to introduce the same sick plan for the county’s paramedics. A neutral third party already ruled against the county’s sick time change proposal on July 20.

“It is clear that we’ve been forced out on strike so the county could make sick time changes for other workers in the county,” said Wightman. “What is troubling is that the county is trying to do this at all costs including closing all 14 library branches all summer long so they can introduce a sick time plan that does not save any money and, in fact, will cost more to administer.”

“The library board’s sick time position lacks business justification or operational rationale – sick time is not a problem at our workplace and the new sick plan will not save any money and will cost more to manage,” said Wightman. “The Essex County Library Board has been directed by the county to get this sick time change in order to set a precedent for other county workers – that is unacceptable to library workers and unfair to the county’s library patrons who have been shut out of their libraries all summer long.”

For more information, please contact:

Lori Wightman
Spokesperson for CUPE 2974

Suanne Hawkins
CUPE National Representative

James Chai
CUPE Communications