Essex County Library workers, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), are urging management and Essex County to keep libraries open as both parties prepare to meet on Wednesday to try and avert a lockout or strike as early as June 25.

“Our libraries are on the verge of being shut down because management and Essex County are trying to push workers on the street over an issue that is not even a problem at our workplace,” said Lori Wightman, unit chair for CUPE 2974. “Management admits that the library’s ‘sick-time’ policy is not an issue and our members are fully respectful of our work and the services we provide and, yet, here we are being pushed around over a phantom issue.”

CUPE 2974 recently found out from management that Essex County, the library funder, was pushing the workers’ employer to change the library workers ‘sick-time’ provisions. “We don’t understand why Essex County would be interested in our workplace sick-time usage when it is not even an issue here,” continued Wightman. “It would be like the county dictating to the library board to increase the ‘late fines’ when library patrons are actually following the rules and returning items on time – jeopardizing library services over a phantom issue does not make any sense.”

“Management already has the tools to address any sick-time problems, if necessary,” said Wightman. “That tool is rarely used because sick time is not an issue in our libraries. If the libraries are closed next week because of this non-existent problem, then county council and management will have to explain to our community why popular summer programs like the Summer Reading Club, Family Story Times and Book Clubs are not available to families and children during the busy summer months.”

In 2015, over 4,000 library patrons attended 226 different summer programs that were offered at 14 library branches around Essex County. Both parties are scheduled for mediation talks on June 22 in advance of the June 25 deadline. The workers’ last contract expired on March 31, 2016.

“We are urging management to return to the bargaining table and focus on reaching a fair collective agreement that will allow our libraries to remain open,” concluded Wightman. “Our members love their jobs and we want to serve our community.”

For more information, please contact:

Lori Wightman
Spokesperson for CUPE 2974

Suanne Hawkins
CUPE National Representative

James Chai
CUPE Communications