As the Essex County Library strike hits the eighth-month mark this week, the Library Board has no real plan to end the strike but to continue to thwart democracy and starve striking workers into submission with their latest mean-spirited salvo of cancelling the workers’ benefits plan, charges CUPE 2974, representing the 57 library workers who have been on strike since June 25, 2016.

“The library board’s intentions are clear – they want to dismantle democracy and bully workers to accept a pre-determined contract that was developed for other county workers,” said Lori Wightman, spokesperson for CUPE 2974. “All through last year, this board and the county have not listened to residents nor have they conducted fair bargaining with the library workers. You would think that since this is the new year, our elected leaders would try a different tack to resolve this strike. But, no, they are now escalating their bullying tactics and continuing their wrong-headed attempts to thwart democracy in our community.”

Wightman is referring to the library board’s decision to cancel a scheduled January 25 library board meeting and, in a fresh attack on the striking workers, cutting off benefits that the board has not even been paying for since the strike began. “Instead of having a public meeting to discuss ways to end the strike where they could have listened to concerned citizens, they are now conducting a ‘visioning session for a five-year road plan’ to accommodate the schedules of the facilitator and council,” continued Wightman. “What is more important here, ending a strike that’s shut our libraries for eight months or discussing a so-called five-year plan for county roads that leads to closed libraries?”

In addition to cancelling the January library board meeting, the Town of Essex and Tecumseh have also prevented residents from speaking at January Council meetings about the library strike. “The municipalities are claiming that they have no ‘authority over library operations’, but surely the elected council has a duty to listen to residents and represent their interest to have the libraries opened again,” continued Wightman. “It is increasingly clear that some elected councillors in Essex County have no interest in allowing democracy to operate in our community and are more interested in pushing their own agenda – to force library workers into submission.”

On top of abandoning democratic principles, the library board has now cut off benefits’ coverage for the striking library workers. “This is a mean-spirited move by the board as the cost of premiums during the strike have been covered by our union. This does not even cost the county a single dime,” concluded Wightman. “This board is continuing their divisive tactics instead of focussing on ending this strike. The only way to end this strike is to have both parties return to the bargaining table and negotiate freely to end this strike. We want to go back to serving our community. Will council do the same?”