CUPE 905 library workers on the picket line

CUPE is disappointed that the Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC) is excluding workers’ voices from its ad hoc Safety and Security Working Group. CUPE, which represents 10,600 public library workers across Canada, had sought to participate to ensure the perspective of workers was present in the working group’s discussions - but those attempts have been rebuffed by the group’s chair Pilar Martinez.

In April, CUPE’s National President Mark Hancock wrote to the now-former executive director of the CULC, noting CUPE’s deep concern about unacceptably high levels of violence and harassment in public libraries and its impacts on both workers and the public. Hancock pointed to recent surveys of CUPE members working in libraries in Saskatchewan and BC which showed more than half of those surveyed in have experienced violence and harassment at work. Similar surveys in Ontario showed 67% of respondents working in libraries in Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, and London say they feel unsafe at work anywhere from a few days a week to a few times per month.

“These statistics are alarming. They demand that close attention be paid to the experiences of frontline library workers, and the impact that workplace violence and harassment is having on their mental and physical health,” wrote Hancock in an April 2023 letter to the CULC, volunteering CUPE’s assistance and expertise to explore the issues of library safety and security.

Unfortunately, the CULC did not take CUPE up on its offer. CUPE is nevertheless pleased that CULC is examining the issue, and we will continue fighting to bring workers’ perspectives and solutions to the table. Simply put, employers cannot ignore the voices of workers who are the true experts on this issue, and who have so many valuable insights to help solve a tragic situation that is currently getting worse, not better.

Now and always, we must never accept violence and harassment as a normal part of the job in libraries, or any other workplace.