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Honk if you love reading

For two days in a row now, I have driven by my closest branch library on my way home from outings with Robinson. Both times, I spotted two rather forlorn looking picketers, and both times I honked loudly and waved. The picketers beamed at me and waved back. I don't think they're getting much of that, which is unfortunate.

I would exhort all the locals on my flist to follow my example, were it not for the fact that except for wendymc I think none of you has a car! Somehow it wouldn't surprise me if lidocafe had not been down there with hot chocolate and oranges, though.

For those on my flist who are NOT local, and have no clue what I'm talking about, and especially for those two or three who are librarians, you will be interested to know that our library staff is locked out. They have been in negotiations with the city for wage equity for months and got nowhere. Among their minor job actions has been a refusal to collect fines, and the city is using lost revenue (!!!) from this as an excuse to lock them out.

I'm not normally very political, but this issue really gets me steamed. The wage imbalance (a parking lot attendant makes more money per hour than the person who checks out books in the library) stems more from gender issues than anything else - library workers are more likely to be female than are parking lot attendants, road workers etc, and I think the city is banking on the fact that the public will get pissed off fairly quickly if they are unable to access the library. I hope people will keep up the solidarity, but I can imagine frazzled mothers with young children wanting books and videos, or seniors, or those who just need a place to go for company or to stay warm, beginning to lose patience with having their libraries closed down.

I shall try and drive by a branch every day and honk and wave.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 21st, 2008 05:51 pm (UTC)
Well, I will be brave and honest here, and say that I feel slightly differently than you do. I don't think you can ever pick two jobs at two locations and compare them fairly, especially if they do different tasks and have different risks. I think a parking lot attendant job is much more dangerous and less interesting than working in a library. I also dislike this becoming a gender isue, as there are female parking lot attendants, and there are male library workers, and neither job specifically excludes one gender over another. I don't think it's fair to say that because females prefer one job over another, that they are discriminated against because that is a lower paying job, when their male coworkers get the same pay they do, in the same position.

I know that comparasins have been made between technical positions at the library and system administrator positions with the city, but the jobs likely do have differing skill levels. As well, they aren't comparing the library wages to the position at, say, Camosun College, where the difference would be far smaller. Doing the same position I do here would absolutely pay more at UVic, I have seen the numbers, but for a multitude of reasons I choose to stay where I am. I don't think it would be reasonable to demand my wages be increased, because a similar position at a comparable institution are far greater.

All that said, I understand that promises were made and not kept, and that I think is wholely unfair. I support that the union is fighting for their right to fair treatment, and standing up for what they believe in. I think it is good that they have the support of the union, and the ability to fight for fair treatment. I'm just a little unhappy with the marketing and impression they're trying to give on gender issues and unfair pay levels.

(I do own a car but Magnus uses it to get to work and taxi the kids to daycare, so I'm bussing it or biking most days ;)

Feb. 21st, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
I also often feel uncomfortable with wage equity arguments on gender grounds, and you're absolutely right that there are women parking lot attendants and male library clerks. I think that the differences are often historical, though, and built into the system.
And actually, I think that wage negotiators often do compare wages for similar jobs at different institutions and ask for equity - I know that's been done with college teaching positions, for example. Not that they always get it, but it's a common tactic. Especially when they are public service jobs, funded by the government, so the institution is arbitrarily choosing how to use the funding. It's a bit different in the private sector, where there is competition, but often then wages will be used as a way to get and keep good people.
But I respect your position - no doubt there are lots of others who share it! And unfortunately the longer they are out the more impatient and unsympathetic people will be.
Feb. 22nd, 2008 05:48 am (UTC)
I don't know about the gender argument either, but I do know that the union has clearly opted not to shut the place down, and I have been grateful for that. It is the library board that has shut the library down, and the notion that they are losing revenue strikes me as suspicious. After all, are late fines in place to keep people from returning books late and thereby inconveniencing other members or are they there as a source of revenue? I'd like to take a look at the books if it is the latter. I am not much at financial matters, so I could be wrong, but it seems to me that saying they can't any longer pay the librarians 100% of their wages to do 75% of their jobs makes for a specious argument. They aren't having to pay anyone to provide Internet access or educational programming, for instance, because no one is doing it. Therefore, while patrons may have suffered from certain services not being available, it's hard for me to understand how the library administrators have suffered, since no one pays for those services and no substitute labour has been paid.

The library is to me one of the last great public institutions, and it is worth its weight in taxes. I'd be happy to have a greater share of tax money go to it.

No, I haven't been down with chocolate and oranges, but I did visit today when i was downtown! Oranges next time, perhaps!
Feb. 21st, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC)
Yay for this post.

Writing for other reasons, though. My son left a message on my machine at work that my daughter-in-law might be in labour. I have to teach a class, run downtown to the bank, then go to the lawyer (also downtown) and pay for my condo today. If they really need me to, though, I might go the the hospital after that. I'll call your home number from downtown with an update, so be sure to check. It may be a false alarm.
Feb. 21st, 2008 07:13 pm (UTC)
Okay! Hope all is well.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


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