Affects of Budget Cuts on Part Time Staff

On February 22, 2012 the Library Board voted to cut $405,000 from Reference and Information services at Central Library and $95,000 in cuts to Technical Services.  I am writing this report to keep you, our Employer, informed of the fallout from these decisions.

Last month, our vice-president delivered a report to you on the plight of our part time staff.  For many of these employees the absence of a living wage, lack of access to hours and consequently scrambling for hours to get the rent paid is hard work.

This week nine Librarians, five Library Technicians and five Information Assistants will be losing hours as of May first.  Management requested a meeting with the Union Executive for March 26th to discover which members were to be affected.

We were surprised by the number of employees affected, as we had been told that there were probably enough vacancies and part-time hours available to help cope with this situation.

The nine librarians have lost sixty-eight hours. Eight of these librarians have lost access to benefits as they now have less than required twenty hours to qualify.

Position Original Hours Hours After Cuts
Librarian 20 7
Librarian 33 19
Librarian 21 20
Librarian 20 7
Librarian 21 14
Librarian 25 19
Librarian 23 19
Librarian 11 5
Librarian 22 18

Our contract also states that where knowledge, skills and ability are relatively equal then seniority shall prevail.  The least senior of the part-time librarians should have lost all their hours and been in a layoff position to bump the next less senior position.  In this scenario we have senior librarians on this list, six of who are in the top twenty librarians on the part-time seniority list.

There are five Library Technicians who will lose a total of forty-eight hours.  Two will lose benefits.  Again, seniority has not been consulted.  Furthermore there are available part time hours at Mount Pleasant and Terry Salman branches that are being posted as expressions of interest.  Why are these hours not being applied by seniority to the Library Technicians who have just lost hours? There is a total of forty-eight hours reduced for this category.

Position Worksite Original Hours Hours After Cuts
Lib Tech Language 34 25
Lib Tech Language 14 5
Lib Tech I 21 4
Lib Tech I 18 14
Lib Tech I 17 8

There are three types of technicians.  The Library Technician I can act as a Library Technician II.  The Language Collection Library Technician can act in the three categories in the library technician field and receive two pay grades more than base library technician rate and the library technician II gets three pay grades higher.  However, they all require a library technician diploma or equivalent (one has a PHD) and part-time staff do not apply for postings generally speaking.  Library technicians fill out a form expressing interest.  These part-time hours are never posted, they are always appointed.  Currently, these hours were put forward as “expressions of interest”.  The Union believes they should be made available only for those who have lost hours and they should be made available by seniority.

There are five Information Assistants losing hours at Central. Again, these are members with a good deal of seniority.  Questions: Are these the right people to lose hours and should the ones with the most seniority be losing any hours?  We think not.  Collectively this class specification is losing forty-four hours.

Position Original Hours Hours After Cuts
Info Assistant 20 16
Info Assistant 16 10
Info Assistant 20 4
Info Assistant 18 4
Info Assistant 20 6

The Information Assistants can only apply for work at Central because of a Letter of Understanding that was signed a number of years ago. These members do not have a Library Technician diploma but have had their experience assessed and have some training.  They can only apply for Information Assistant and Library Technician jobs at Central, not the branches. We are hoping that if Library Technicians from Central get the branch hours then their hours will be available for the Info Assistants.

One of our members on this list has had their hours affected three years in a row. She describes the situation of ongoing change management initiatives and annual budget cuts as “feeling out of control”.  This person is also a single mother and will not be able to afford her rent or receive benefits.

Another member who lost hours and benefits has cancer. She is experiencing a lot of residual health problems from the chemo and radiation. She too will not be able to afford her rent or health bills.  She is utterly demoralised.

The Library Board no longer talks of valuing our staff in the Value Statements. The Board does talk of wise use of resources. In the February meeting the Union offered several money saving options that would have delivered the necessary cuts. We know for a fact that:

  • Several retirements have been announced
  • Branch head positions can be brought back into scope through current review. Savings of over $100,000
  • Vancouver Shared Services Review regarding Security is   happening this year; savings of over $200,000 plus benefits

But here is the kicker, – Savings of $120,000 + benefits (40,000?) for a directors position. This position has sat empty for almost a year and, oddly, there is a sudden rush to fill it around the implementation of the budget cuts.  We say the library didn’t need the position then and we don’t need it now. That money needs to be put into direct public service, not behind the scenes where our simple organizational requirements are already more than met.

The other real insult to the membership is the hiring of a lawyer for negotiations. That could run the library over $200,000 in expenses. I wonder if the public will think they are getting value for their dollar at $400 per hour and charges for administrative work for a lawyer to be the talking head for labour/contract negotiations. The assumption that most people make when you hire managers and directors for a unionised organisation is that those people will have bargaining experience. If they don’t you have to wonder at the hiring process at VPL for senior management positions.

Still, if that is how we hire senior management at the library, we could borrow some expertise from the City. The Library already uses expertise from the City for grievances and Health and Safety. The last round of bargaining we had twenty-three managers sitting around our tables during bargaining. I am sure they would be willing to oblige again.

Please do not feel that the Union disrespects the Library Board in any way. We feel fortunate with the breadth of knowledge and skills represented on our Board, working tirelessly on behalf of the public – for free, no less.  We just hope that you will demonstrate that you understand the importance of the work of our part time staff by reconsidering some monetary savings. The effects go beyond our diminishing frontline service, and loss of health and homes. Our part-time staff do not feel valued in the least!