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In dispute’s latest twist, Employer cites ‘food for fines’ job action as grounds for discipline

VICTORIA—A “food for fines” program that Greater Victoria Public Library workers initiated before the holiday season—and which was endorsed by management despite being part of a job action—has now resulted in the suspension of a library employee and a one-day shutdown of all GVPL branches in support of that worker.

The union, which represents public library workers in the Capital region, is picketing all nine branches of the GVPL today.

“Food for fines is a legitimate strike action,” says CUPE 410 president Ed Seedhouse, describing the practice of waiving outstanding late charges and other fines in exchange for contributions to local food banks.

“Disciplining our members for such activity violates the collective agreement between the parties and the Labour Relations Code. By walking out today, we are simply doing what is necessary to protect our members.”

In a letter to GVPL chief executive Barry Holmes, the Union has asked the Employer to stop disciplining or threatening to discipline members of CUPE 410 for participating in “food for fines”, and to rescind discipline already imposed on CUPE members.

The Union is pointing to the example of Farwest Handydart Services Inc. and Local 3 of the Independent Canadian Transit Union to support the legality of the “food for fines” job action. In that case, the arbitrator found that the drivers’ refusal to collect fares was lawful strike activity—for which employers are not entitled to discipline employees.

“What is most galling about this suspension is that the Employer previously endorsed the waiving of fines when it characterized ‘food for fines’ as a ‘joint initiative’ or a ‘GVPL campaign’. It did this in an e-mail on November 28, on its web page, and in a CBC radio interview,” says Seedhouse.

CUPE 410 is in the process of drafting an unfair labour practice complaint to the LRB

Contact:  Ed Seedhouse, CUPE 410 president: (250) 588-9565
  Tammy Simonds, CUPE representative: (250) 812-7197
  Dan Gawthrop, CUPE Communications: (604) 999-6132