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VIRL announces it is going back to the table with a mediator in library strike

Announcement came Saturday afternoon following job escalation in dispute with BCGEU librarians
VIRL announced Saturday afternoon that it has re-engaged the assigned mediator in its labour dispute with librarians represented by BCGEU. The Sidney/North Saanich branch of VIRL was the site of pickets as late as April 8. (Black Press Media file photo)

The labour dispute between Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) and librarians represented by BCGEU appears to be moving back to mediation.

VIRL announced Saturday (April 9) afternoon that it has re-engaged the assigned mediator. VIRL board of trustees chair Gaby Wickstrom said in a release that the board is “confident that a resumption of cooperative bargaining will lead us to a mutually acceptable outcome.”

The next steps involve finding dates and times for bargaining that are mutually agreeable, according to the release.

BCGEU is asking for what it describes as “reasonable” wage increases “given the skyrocketing cost of living on Vancouver Island” and higher compensation for VIRL executives while VIRL has spoken of ensuring “fair wage increases for staff while balancing the financial burden” to communities in the face of COVID-19.

VIRL’s press release comes after nearly two weeks of escalating job actions by librarians as represented by BCGEU. They’ve been on strike since March 30 with rotating pickets at various VIRL locations. At the Sidney/North Saanich branch pickets appeared on March 15, March 22 through March 25 and April 8.

According to the BCGEU, 48 librarians are responsible for Vancouver Island’s 39 locations from Greater Victoria to Port Hardy including the Gulf Islands, Haida Gwaii and Bella Coola. Recent days have seen pickets appear in what are arguably VIRL’s most prominent locations in Greater Nanaimo.

RELATED: Vancouver Island Regional Library strike to ramp up after talks fail to produce deal

Two days of mediation prior to BCGEU’s announcement on March 30 failed to produce an outcome. BCGEU said at the time that VIRL had walked away from the union’s counter-proposal to a VIRL offer, which VIRL said remained on the table.

BCGEU issued a strike notice on Feb. 25 and picketing began on March 8 after librarians had voted 95 per cent in favour of job action to back their proposals after mediation between the two parties in January had failed to produce an agreement.

Black Press Media has reached out to BCGEU for comment.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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