Funding cutbacks have library employees in a tough spot

Duncan – Re: cutbacks at Cowichan branch of Vancouver Island Regional Library, starting July 1. Did you know that our tax dollars are being used to improve library services in 14 other B.C. communities? VIRL recently announced that the Cowichan branch and five others will be losing three hours of operation per week so that hours can be increased in other locations (13 hours’ increase in Sandspit and Woss, eight at Cortes Island, Port Alice and Tahsis, for example).

At first glance it looks like the familiar grocery store ploy of “pay the same amount but the package is smaller”, but is it even legal for our tax money to be spent elsewhere?

It shouldn’t be. As if this were not bad enough, the restructuring to implement this plan is a disaster for the employees affected by the cut-backs. A reduction of three hours of operation per week should not be hard to organize with minimal impact on the staff, but I’ve been told that some employees’ hours have been cut to just below the number needed for them to receive benefits, and their hours are not consistent from week to week, meaning they are unable to take a second job.

So the employees can’t make a living wage at the library, are unable to supplement those wages with a second job, they will have to resign, and the library board can then hire new workers, likely at a lower rate of pay.

A cynic would say this is what the VIRL board intended all along. I’ve always found the library staff efficient and helpful, and they deserve better treatment than this.

Eleanor Montour