In the October Labour Management meeting of CUPE 932 with its employer, HPL Chief Librarian Paul Takala presented the Rural Service Model proposal that he will be presenting to the Board.
The gist of the proposal is to extend the open hours of rural branches without any staff present at the location. The employer advised in the proposal that there will still be some way for customers to contact staff virtually via intercom, facetime or some similar technology.
Below is CUPE 932’s statement regarding this proposal. This statement was read during the November Labour Management meeting and forwarded to the employer for inclusion in the minutes for that meeting. The statement was already read during the November General Membership Meeting.
To HPL Board Members and Management:
Please do not take our silence as a sign of agreement regarding your plans for the Rural Branch Model. We were so shocked by the presentation at the last Labour Management meeting, that we had to step away and digest all that you proposed.
Our concerns are many and warranted. Your staff see the erosion of their livelihoods in the decimation of full-time jobs. They have lost hope that they’ll ever be able to support their families and communities on the reduced income and stability that result from part-time positions. It does not go unnoticed that there have been zero reductions for management staff. Now they look to the future and see you’re proposing they can be replaced by EMPTY SPACE – branches with no staffing, limited community engagement, and unsafe work environments.
Rural branches should be open for more hours; on this we agree. But the strength of good library service relies on good customer service, as well as access to materials. If the rural branches are to be opened additional hours, they should be staffed for those hours, so that the library remains the hub of the community, the go-to place for face-to-face interaction with knowledgeable, dedicated staff.
What message are you sending to your staff and the community when you decide it’s more cost effective to allow theft, than to have dedicated staff working in the branch? Do not think for a minute that when word gets out there are unmanned branches, people will not come from miles around for the free goods they can load up into their cars.
Perhaps the goal should be to open rural branches longer when the capital is there to staff them and provide the stellar customer service that HPL is known for. Why should rural customers settle for less than urban customers?