John McCracken | CUPE Communications

The president of CUPE 2329, representing the province of Newfoundland and Labrador’s library workers, says suggestions from Education Minister Dale Kirby that libraries can somehow be ‘given back to communities,’ can only mean he expects them to be run by volunteers.

Overhead view of library with book shelves and people reading books

Dawn Lahey said, “Such a move would take our province back more than 30 years, to a time when we had libraries being run by ‘community volunteers.’

“For the minister to suggest that libraries in schools will stay open but will not be staffed after school hours is an admission that he wants to move to a volunteer model.”

Kirby has been quoted as saying that libraries in schools will be open for students but not the public, unless the school district and the library boards can come up with a plan to keep them open for a couple of hours a few evenings a week, or when the school is not open.

Kirby has also said they’d probably offer ‘small grants’ to the people from the community who’d be operating the libraries for those hours.

CUPE NL President Wayne Lucas responded: “This is the government laying off staff in 54 locations and doing an end-run around the union by paying non-union volunteers honoraria for doing union work. This is union-busting of the worst kind, and it’s directed mostly at women in rural NL.

“I would like the minister to explain to the almost 60 women in rural Newfoundland and Labrador who will be losing their jobs that he plans to replace them with volunteers. It is becoming increasingly clear that Dale Kirby and this Liberal government have no actual plan for our province’s library system.

“No one has even called CUPE, or our library locals to fill us in on any of these details. Minister Kirby appears to be flying by the seat of his pants on the critically important issue of libraries in our communities.”

CUPE continues to oppose the cuts across the province.