Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Please note, a media blackout is now in place until further notice.
As of 2pm today, CUPE 391 and the Vancouver Public Library, City of Vancouver and Metro Vancouver Labour Relations Bureau have agreed to a media blackout as the parties would like to remain focused on talks, which are underway. [October 16, 2007 02:00 PM]
Paul Whitney, Special to the SunPublished: Tuesday, October 16, 2007
After 11 weeks of strike and recommendations for the most lucrative settlement of the three striking Vancouver civic workers' unions, the board and management of the Vancouver Public Library are deeply disappointed that library workers are not heading back to work and library services have not been restored for the residents of Vancouver.
Since rejecting the recommendations of Brian Foley, one of the most experienced and respected mediators in British Columbia, CUPE Local 391 has claimed that his proposal does little to address the union's key issue, pay equity.
Foley recommended one-pay-grade wage adjustments for 337 employees as a way to address some job market equity issues. He declined the union's request for a committee to study pay equity, which could meet for years before employees receive any wage increases and could also result in pay decreases. The Regina Public Library negotiated pay equity with its union and for four years both sides have been discussing the issue. Workers have yet to see any wage adjustments.
CUPE 391, which represents 770 library employees, says instead it would like to take the funding for these wage adjustments to provide increases for all staff. This is not pay equity. This is turning a 17.5-per-cent wage increase into a 19.5-per-cent wage increase over five years. In addition to the 17.5-per-cent salary increase over five years, the wage adjustments recommended by Foley add more than two per cent to the library payroll.
Since bargaining began last December, the union has raised pay equity as its members' major issue. The problem is that it has continually redefined the term, often erroneously, by mixing issues of internal, market and employment equity under the umbrella of pay equity. Claiming there is pay inequity at the Vancouver Public Library is easier and simpler than explaining to taxpayers you want a greater wage increase than has been negotiated not just with the other two Vancouver unions, but throughout Metro Vancouver.
Vancouver Public Library and the City of Vancouver, the library's major funder, not only endorse the principles of pay equity, we also practise them. The current job evaluation system consistently results in upgrading for the majority of positions reviewed.
In order to respond to issues raised by CUPE 391, the city and library thoroughly reviewed and compared city and library job classifications and reconfirmed there is no gender inequity in workplaces funded by the city.
Making arguments under the guise of pay equity, the union has compared library jobs to inside and outside city positions and to jobs in other jurisdictions, as close as Burnaby and as far away as Toronto. It is important to examine what some of these comparisons actually mean:
- The union has claimed that an entry-level city labourer earns more than an entry-level library worker without acknowledging that some of the pay difference is because labourers work five hours more a week, labourers have only one hourly rate and do not advance in their positions as frequently or quickly as library workers, and their work conditions differ substantially.
- The union believes that librarians should earn the same as other professionals employed by the city who have masters degrees. A person's level of education is only one of the factors in determining appropriate compensation. Levels of responsibility, supervising staff and consequences of decisions must also be considered.
- On numerous occasions, the union has explained that librarians in Toronto are paid 23 per cent more per hour more than librarians in Vancouver because Ontario has pay-equity legislation and B.C. does not. The factor here is market equity, not pay equity. The union has not publicized that city planners in Toronto make 18 per cent more than those in Vancouver. And pay equity is not an issue as book shelvers in Toronto earn 42-per -cent less than VPL staff currently shelving books and 33 per cent less than the wage set by Foley for the new book shelver classification.
It is the responsibility of the library board and management to ensure that a negotiated settlement is fair to our employees, our major funder (the city) and to taxpayers.