Friday, September 5, 2008

Kingston Frontenac Public Library

"Rolling back our wages won't build a strong library service,"--Sherry Van Luven, Union Vice-President

Talks between the Kingston Frontenac Public Library and the union representing its librarians, technicians and other workers have broken down.

The library filed for a no-board report on Aug. 26, starting the clock ticking on a possible strike or lockout, although that report had not been received from a conciliator yesterday and no strike date has been set.

Library staff plan to set up information pickets outside library branches as early as next week to inform the public of their side of the dispute.

Wages are at the heart of the disagreement as the 90 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees are not happy about a wage offer of 2.5 and 2.25 per cent increases over the next three years.

Also at issue is the staffing of the libraries on Sundays through the winter. The downtown and Turner branches are open Sundays for about six months a year and the library is proposing reducing the premiums paid to staff on those days from double time to time-and-a-half.

It is not a lot of money in the library's $6-million annual budget -
about $5.7 of million of which comes from the city, Frontenac County and the province - but chief librarian Deborah Dafoe said it was a contentious issue during the last negotiation also, when the double-time rate was discussed but ultimately left unchanged.

"That seems to be one of the last things left on the table each time," she said.

She said there had been five days of negotiations with the union and characterized the sessions as "amicable." The two sides will return to the table later this month and Dafoe said she was optimistic that a new contract could be reached that would prevent any disruption in library services.

"We're confident that we can reach an agreement," she said.

The union, though, claims that the library board is cutting services on the backs of its staff and notes the proposed pay increase is below the 3.5, 3 and 2.5 per cent increase over three years that the biggest CUPE union representing the city's inside and outside workers ratified in April.

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