Battlefords: One of the many things you will find at a Lakeland Branch Library is the face of poverty, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees, as most of the unionized library workers are earning less than $10 an hour.
CUPE, which represents about 100 employees at the Lakeland Regional Library, says the library workers are the poorest paid in the province – if not the country.
“You really have to love libraries to work for Lakeland,” says CUPE Local 3077 President Dawnlyn Ward, “because the reality of our working lives is poor wages, no benefits and part-time hours”.
Although a single parent with two children needs to earn $12 an hour to be at the poverty line in the Battlefords, “only a few of our members would be earning that much money, given the low wage rates and part-time hours,” she says.
At the entry level, a branch librarian earns $8.37 an hour at Lakeland and a clerk II earns $8.89 an hour. In contrast, a clerk II at JMC Library in Prince Albert starts at $11.65 an hour and Parkland (Melville) at $14.12 an hour – more than $5 higher.
“It’s a sad reflection on the Lakeland Library Board that they attach so little ‘value’ to their staff – and indeed the role of libraries in their communities,” says CUPE staff representative Rhonda Heisler.
Despite the appallingly low wages, the Lakeland Regional Library Board continues to utilize a Saskatoon consultant to maintain the status quo in contract negotiations. When the library board recently proposed increases that barely matched the cost-of-living, some CUPE members left the bargaining table in tears, Heisler says.
“At this juncture, we are exploring all options, including the possibility of taking a strike vote in an effort to achieve better wages. The question is: Why should these employees have to strike to be paid fairly?” says Heisler.
She says the library board appears to have sufficient funds in its reserve to provide much better wages and benefits for every CUPE Local 3077 member. “What remains to be seen is whether this board has the will to act in the best interests of its staff.”
Contract negotiations between CUPE Local 3077 and Lakeland resume on December 5.
The CUPE Local 3077 agreement expired on March 31, 2006.
For more information, please contact:
Rhonda Heisler in Saskatoon