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Calgary – Local 1169 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees is set to begin bargaining tomorrow with the Calgary Library Board for a new collective agreement for the library staff. The union will be seeking some solutions to the problem of increasing workload in libraries across the city.

“The Calgary Public Library continues to expand yet there has not been a corresponding expansion in staff. As a result, library staff are suffering increased stress and health problems related to increased workload. We need the Library Board and the City to take these issues seriously,” says CUPE 1169 president Jerry Fawcett, who is a librarian at the Castell Central Library.

“Statistical information comparing Calgary Public Library’s low staffing levels, high workload and increased use by Calgarians to other major Canadian public libraries can be located at your local library. Just ask a librarian,” says Fawcett.

Calgary operates the second largest library system in the country, second only to Toronto. Yet the Calgary system’s payroll accounts for just 58.4 per cent of it’s spending, compared with the national average of 63.5 per cent. The Calgary system circulates about 28,000 items per staff member, compared with about 15,000 in Toronto.

“Declining staffing ratios, as a result of growing use by Calgarians and expansion of the library system, have resulted in new responsibilities being added to outdated job descriptions and rates of pay,” he said.

A workload survey conducted by the union in 2002 revealed that a large number of library staff stay late outside scheduled working hours or take work home in order to keep up with the demands of their jobs. Staff believes the added workload is affecting their health and the quality of service they take pride in providing to Calgarians.

“We will be taking these issues directly to the bargaining table, looking for recognition of unpaid overtime work. We will also be seeking direct involvement in the review and revision of job descriptions and responsibilities,” said Fawcett.

CUPE 1169 will also be taking the issue of volunteers to the bargaining table, seeking a clearer definition of the roles and responsibilities of volunteer services inside library facilities.

“Right now there is no clear policy on the use of volunteers. As a result of declining budgets, the use of volunteers has ballooned to 1,150, over twice the number of paid union staff in the system. Volunteers are recognized as an important part of a public library system. However, volunteers are meant to augment staff resources, not take their place,” he added.

CUPE 1169 represents over 550 library staff including librarians, library assistants, information technology and communications staff, clerical support staff, shelvers, drivers, maintenance staff and cleaners. Their current collective agreement expires on March 31.

CUPE is Canada’s largest union with over half a million women and men who provide public services. In Alberta, CUPE’s 31,000 members work in health care, municipalities, schools, colleges, universities, libraries, emergency medical services, social services and casinos. Visit the CUPE websites for more information www.cupe.ca and www.cupealberta.ab.ca.

For further information:

Pam Beattie, CUPE Communications (780) 288-1230 (cellular)

Tom O’Leary, CUPE National Representative (403) 863-7842 (cellular)