The restoration of the Edmonton Public Library main branch is a work in progress – and so, by the sound of it, is its human resources policy (Photo: EPL).

Using the wording of its collective agreement with Civic Service Union 52 as an excuse, and the United Conservative Government’s minimum wage reduction for students under 18 as the trigger, Edmonton Public Library is handing its youth pages pay cuts of $2.30 to $2.50 per hour.

This is pretty shameful for an institution whose mission is supposedly to cater to society’s most vulnerable and which nurtures a public image as a major contributor to our regional community.

But, gee, I guess the opportunity to squeeze its most vulnerable employees was just too much to resist when the Kenney Government introduced its disgraceful $13-per-hour “youth minimum wage,” a 13-per-cent pay cut of $2 from the $15-per-hour minimum wage instituted by the NDP. But the UCP’s generous supporters in the fast-food industry – a group that we expect to be more ruthless than public libraries – had to be rewarded.

The EPL youth pay cut comes into effect on June 26. EPL spokespeople make it sound as they had no choice, what with the government’s young-student pay cut taking effect that day and CSU 52’s collective agreement setting out rates of pay for student pages in three steps: minimum wage plus 15 per cent, plus 20 per cent, and plus 25 per cent.

This is baloney, of course. The Library has the option of not hammering its student pages, just leaving their pay rate at $15 per hour plus the premium until the collective agreement could be re-worded in collective bargaining.

Obviously, since at the time the contract was inked no one knew about the UCP’s future favour to the fast-food industry, there’s money in the EPL budget to continue paying the $15-based rate.

Lest you think all libraries in the region are doing the same thing, they are not. St. Albert’s Public Library, on whose board I sat for several years, will not be lowering the wages of its library pages. “Of course not,” the library director exclaimed when I asked. I think he was appalled I’d even suggest such a thing.

The EPL youth pay cut also makes a lie of Premier Jason Kenney’s promise workers subject to collective agreements wouldn’t be impacted by his minimum wage cuts.

I’m sure CSU 52 will try to rectify this in its next round of collective bargaining.

I don’t know if this bright idea originated with the EPL Board or Library management and it would be pointless to ask. Regardless, readers of this blog can let EPL management know what they think of the policy at [email protected].

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    1. Not a typo. The amount varies because of the three-step pay scale in the collective agreement. The library responds to queries thus: “Rates of pay for Student Pages will decrease by $2.30 – $2.50 depending on where they are on the pay grid.” DJC

  1. It’s only a matter of time until Public Libraries in Alberta are sold off to the private sector. Or, books could be sold for kindling and replaced with pamphlets touting the virtues “ethical oil”, and of course the Bible. No need for books that would confuse and entertain the masses.

    Welcome to Kenney’s dystopia in Alberta.

  2. There could be an interesting scenario play out in a few months time. I am thinking about Sally, Martha and Henry’s daughter.

    Sally has been working a minimum wage job for about a year now. She enjoys the work, and her employer is completely satisfied with her work. She really appreciated the minimum wage hike the NDP brought in, and was naturally disappointed when Jason Kenney cut her salary.

    It’s OK, though. Sally’s birthday is next October, and she is already looking forward to telling her manager that she has just turned 18 and her pay needs to go back up to $15/hour.

    What will the business owner do? I wonder how many people will be given a pink slip for an 18th birthday present? I assume employers still have to complete a termination slip for EI purposes when employment ends, so what reason will the employer give? Will Sally’s work suddenly become unsatisfactory? Perhaps the owner will claim a lack of work, then immediately hire someone else to do Sally’s job, or perhaps he will suddenly start bullying Sally until she quits.

    I hope some of the Sally’s will tell their stories to the media.

  3. The Edmonton library should be renamed and the name Stanley A. Milner Library should be removed. Stanley Milner has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Conservatives, UCP and PC parties to get his way and for his own benefit. Rename the library to the Edmonton Library and don’t use a persons name on any buildings just because someone has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars for a political party. We all contribute to public use of buildings. I have no problem if someone contributes to a public space with a name plaque in recognition but not name a building because one has contributed much dollars to one political government party.

  4. And with the intention of the UCP to now interfere with the collective bargaining process, this will even deepen the possible cuts to wages.

  5. I love your comment. Right on the money lol. No pun intended. What stops employers from basically off loading their 2 dollar higher salary emplyees for cheaper ones not only that, isnt discriminatory for someone who is 17 to take a cut. How can you even justify paying them less for the exact same work, someone one year older is able to do.

  6. I don’t agree with the pay cut but at least they will be paid something. Last year the Edmonton public library put out a call for expert craftspeople to run classes at the library for no wages at all.

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