Thursday, August 30, 2007

Library Workers - Contract Issues

CUPE 391 -Library Workers writes:

Why Pay Equity?

Being paid fairly is a human right. The library is a predominantly female workplace and, as a result, library workers have been underpaid for decades. It is only ethical to pay library workers fairly in a way that compensates them for the required education and skills necessary to do the complex job of facilitating library service.

MY VIEW

The City of Burnaby and CUPE 23 agreed to the following method:

  • Up to 2% of Library straight-time payroll in 2007 and 1% in each of 2009, 2010 & 2011 to fund adjustments for library classes (of positions) (except Pages) after joint committee review comparing to City positions
The Library union must begin quantifying costs and not depending solely on terms and phrases such as "human right," and "ethical."

Why? The counter argument to pay equity is Supply and Demand. The current supply of Librarians outstrips the demand (available positions.) It further argues that extensive training is not an acceptable criteria to determine pay when the staffing is so readily available.

Pay equity will arrive given national precedents. I believe that there will be an agreement for a joint committee of City of Vancouver and CUPE members to review Library jobs and generate a report by a set deadline. Coquitlam has adopted a process that CUPE supports. I have not found any information online and can not provide any details.

CUPE 391 writes:

"Why improvements for part-time and auxiliary workers?

Almost half of CUPE 391 members are either part-time or auxiliary workers. Of these 380 workers, only 50 members receive any kind of pro-rated health and vacation benefits. The rest of these employees receive only a small percentage in lieu of benefits that comes nowhere near fair compensation.

MY VIEW

Multiple demands: - more police officers - cleaner parks - more building inspectors etc. are always coming before city council. If more police are funded then budget cuts hit Park Board or Social Planning.

Public sector budgets are a limited pie.

Given residential tax increases combined with the 1% tax transfer from business to residential taxpayers there is very limited political appeal to raise taxes further.

The outcome will be job losses. Health benefits are costly. Fewer auxiliaries will be utilized. Operating hours would also be reduced to absorb the costs.

Fiscal trade offs define public sector operations.


6 comments:

spartikus said...

The current supply of Librarians outstrips the demand

Well, I certainly couldn't speak to the statistics here, but anecdotally speaking we seem to have lost a lot of promising young librarians to other systems.

Take as you will.

Anonymous said...

The whole case for pay equity is silly. I certainly agree that we shouldn't discriminate against workers based on their sex (or any other non-performance related issues). But some bureaucrats deciding that librarians are worth x% of labourers (or whatever) isn't going to change the fact that the world views librarians as being worth y% of labourers.

If we insist on maintaining some arbitrary rate of pay that isn't consistent with what people are willing to pay, the group (librarians in this case) will just disappear. There's a fixed pot of money available for the service. If the rate of pay is so high that it's not possible to employ enough people to provide a reasonable service, sooner or later everyone will say it's not worth keeping the service at all.

It's not fair. It's just the way the world is. Trying to legislate that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east is interesting, but unlikely to change the behaviour of the earth...

spartikus said...

Well anonymous, the simple fact of the matter is the invisible hand isn't paying librarians x% - what their skill set commands in the market. It pays them y%. It pays them y% because the world, if you define the world as the male-dominated elite, see they can use the inordinate power they wield to take advantage of a group that has historically been placed in a position of subservience.

This "arbitrary" rate of pay you suggest would be the result of enacting pay equity is also a baseless fear: pay equity provides a system to measure a job's worth in a gender neutral fashion. Jobs within the employer (in this case across City departments) are broken down into their component parts, weighted by number, and then compared. If an adjustment is dictated by these numbers, it enacted. If it isn't...it isn't.

It really is a objective system to actually gauge a job's true market value.

Logan said...

"It really is a objective system to actually gauge a job's true market value."

What an absurd statement! The "market value" of something is set by the market, ie. supply and demand. The market value of a job -- ie. the wage -- is determined by the available supply of workers. Trying to impose "pay equity" by comparing two different jobs, with different supplies of workers, is like comparing apples and oranges.

If there really is a shortage of librarians, then the Library would be desperate to attract more of them, and it would already have agreed to improve wages or benefits above its already generous offer. It seems more likely to me that there is a healthy supply of librarians out there, and that the wage rate currently on offer accurately reflects market value.

If anything, I would assume that the collective bargaining system (especially in the public sector) results in wage levels HIGHER than you would see in a true free market system.

Conveniently, most librarians are female, so they can claim that the wages of librarians everywhere have been suppressed below their true market value by a sinister "male-dominated elite". Really? Where's the proof?

spartikus said...

The average wage for a Canadian woman in 1998 was 72.2% of the average Canadian man's salary. The percentage dropped to 71% in 2003.

And that's all the proof you need.

Nor is it apples and oranges. Like duties are compared to like duties and scored (by a team composed of management and union).

The "market value" of something is set by the market

This is a simplistic characterization. "Market forces" are governed by far more than "supply and demand". War, peace, natural disasters and...yes...cultural attitudes all come into play.

Anonymous said...

Pay equity should mean that a person doing comparable work gets paid a comparable amount. Why is the union comparing a library worker to a labourer? Clearly, that is not comparable work. One person is outside with a shovel and the other is inside with a wheel cart. That's about the most obvious example of an apples to oranges comparison I have ever heard of.