Nfld. & Labrador

Government 'union busting' with library jobs, says CUPE

The president of the CUPE local representing library workers says the government is union busting.

Use of volunteers called 'a slap in the face' to library staff

Dawn Lahey of CUPE Local 2320, which represents library workers in Newfoundland and Labrador. (CUPE)

The union that represents library workers in Newfoundland and Labrador has accused the government of union busting.

Dawn Lahey heads up Local 2329 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and speaks for more than 60 employees who will lose their jobs when 54 libraries close by 2017.

She responded Thursday to Education Minister Dale Kirby's announcement that he's working on finding ways to continue public access to school-based and some municipal libraries, in some cases using volunteers.

Lahey said replacing staff librarians with volunteers is an end-run around the union.

"Absolutely union busting. Absolutely. It's terrible," she said. "What a slap in the face to someone. Not only union busting, but it's a slap in the face to someone who's given their life to that library."

Kirby has said that the English School District will determine if there is an interest in maintaining a "minimum level" of library service. 

"Whether that would be a couple of evenings a week or something like that, where the people could come in and use internet services that are there."

Education Minister Dale Kirby has said that volunteers may be used to keep some school or community libraries open for a few hours a week. (CBC)

Kirby said staff who operate the school libraries and local volunteers would be the people likely asked to do the work.

He also said the government may offer some incentive for them to do so.

"We have volunteers at the local level, and maybe there are opportunities for small grants to hire students or people locally on a part-time basis to provide the service. There's lots of options being looked at," Kirby said.

​Lahey thinks the move would take the library system back nearly 40 years, when she started working in it.

She said staff were underpaid and there was rampant inequality between libraries and services across the province, and that will be happening again.

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