Library worker helping patrons

Workers should never be expected or required to accept violence and harassment as a normal part of their job. All workers have the right to a safe workplace, free from all forms of violence and harassment.

Yet, workplace violence and harassment are major problems for library workers across Canada, particularly for those who work in public libraries. Over the past few years, the rate and intensity of incidents has grown substantially. Workers who experience or witness incidents are left injured and traumatized.

Recent surveys show that an alarming number of CUPE members who work in public libraries in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Ontario have experienced violence and harassment, threats of physical harm, and feel unsafe while on the job. What we are seeing is a nationwide crisis.

CUPE members know that library work can be dangerous and that education and training help, but aren’t enough on their own, to adequately address the problem. Underlying this problem are the country’s housing, affordability, mental health, and addictions crises, the underfunding of library and other public services, and inadequate staffing levels. There are also challenges involved in finding ways to improve worker and public safety in libraries, while maintaining a welcoming and compassionate environment for everyone. Solutions to this problem are multifaceted, with some falling outside the scope of library spaces and library work.

To support library locals who represent library workers, CUPE is launching new collective agreement language containing specific recommendations for the prevention of workplace violence and harassment. If negotiated into collective agreements, this new language could help to improve worker health and safety across the library sector and mitigate the serious consequences of experiencing or witnessing violence and harassment while on the job.

Download a copy of the new collective agreement language here

If your local wants to develop a plan to negotiate new health and safety protections for library workers in your next round of bargaining, contact your CUPE servicing representative.