Library workers at the Powell River Public Library, represented by CUPE 798, voted 100% in favour of a strike in a vote held Tuesday, August 23, 2022. Workers have been without a contract since December 2021 and have been working to address the Library’s history of low and inequitable wages.
“The fact that every single Library member voted is a show of solidarity and support for the work of our bargaining committee, who continue to fight for equal pay for the equal work our members perform,” said CUPE 798 President Fred Stutt. “Library workers are paid far less than those performing equal work for the City of Powell River and the qathet Regional District, and the situation is not sustainable.”
The pay equity concerns of library workers in Powell River are not new, having been raised by workers many times over the past decade. Library workers have long identified that their wages start considerably lower than their colleagues at the City of Powell River who perform equivalent work with comparable complexity, responsibility, education and skill requirements. Past work by the City of Powell River to address wage fairness among its own workforce excluded library workers, despite the library being a funded service of the municipality.
“This is a long-standing issue of fairness, but also one of affordability and the rising cost of living,” said Stutt. “Library workers provide an important service to the community, and these city-funded jobs should fairly support those who go to work every day to serve our community.”
Stutt points to the affordability challenges that have grown following the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rising cost of living that has affected every part of the province. He notes that the historical issue of low wages at the Powell River Public Library has been made far worse by rising inflation experienced in the past several months.
The bargaining parties applied for mediation, scheduled to begin on September 28, 2022. The union is hopeful that a mediator will help the parties reach a fair agreement that addresses the wage inequity at the Powell River Public Library.
“Our members work at the library because we are deeply committed to serving local patrons, but too many of us can’t make ends meet,” said Stutt. “We continue to do everything in our power to resolve this outstanding issue, and to continue serving and living in this great community.”
CUPE 798 represents about 450 local government and social service workers in the qathet Region, including those at the city, regional district, Inclusion Powell River, and Powell River Public Library.