SAANICH, BC — Saanich mayor Frank Leonard had seen enough, so he got up and left through the back door.
Last night, nearly 100 workers from the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) gathered at the municipal hall after being denied delegate status to present their case for pay equity at Saanich council’s regular meeting.
More than 50 of the workers had flooded into the council chambers, waiting patiently until the meeting agenda was exhausted and Leonard called for adjournment.
At that moment, CUPE 410 president Ed Seedhouse stood out from the crowd and asked the mayor: “Why can’t you hear us? We want to be heard.”
Leonard, after briefly replying that CUPE 410 was not on the agenda, rose from his chair and walked out the chamber’s back door, leaving the rest of the councillors sitting with a gallery full of CUPE members.
“Three of the councillors were willing to hear us,” Seedhouse reported later.
“What was surprising was that they didn’t even know that there had been an agreement on pay equity in 1991. They didn’t know the history of the issue, which is all the more reason to have been included on the agenda. All we needed was five minutes to explain our case.”
Before the meeting, the library workers gathered outside and lit candles to protest their exclusion from the evening’s agenda. Arriving councillors were handed copies of the pay equity package, which compares pay rates for comparable classifications between GVPL jobs and those from the City of Victoria.
The union also came with signed petitions requesting “that Council endorses the funding of pay equity for library workers in Greater Victoria based on the long-standing agreement that library positions be compared to City of Victoria positions for pay equity purposes.”
Councillor Wayne Hunter, who sits on the Greater Victoria Public Library board, spoke briefly with the CUPE members and asked for copies of the pay equity package.
“There is sympathy for our cause out there,” Seedhouse concluded. “But we need to be able to get our message out. If we can’t talk to the GVLRA, who can we talk to? Fortunately, some of the Saanich councillors are willing to hear us.”