Locks changed at library and gallery while talks continue

JNAAG photo via Facebook Patrons wait to get into the new Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery in Sarnia earlier this year. A county council committee has nixed the idea of an admission fee for the new gallery for now.

JNAAG photo via Facebook
Negotiations between striking Gallery and Library workers will continue Tuesday

Lambton County and the union representing workers at the Sarnia Library and the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery are trying to reach a deal to get the 55 workers back on the job – even if they can’t get in the door right now.

Friday Lambton County which runs both the library and gallery, imposed a new four-year contract instead of locking out the members of the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union  who would have been in a legal strike position.  The new contract terms gives workers immediate salary increases of one per cent retroactive to January, with another one percent in each of the next four years

The county says the sick leave benefit paid out on retirement will end with people who have banked sick days being paid out at the end of the current year. It’s a benefit with none of the other 1175 county employees have.

Union leaders says the imposition of a contract – an unusual but legal move – forced the union’s hand and the workers walked out Saturday morning. Officials say the dispute not about money but about the workplace atmosphere adding there is a culture of bullying within the workplace.

Then, while they walked the line, they watched workers change the locks on both the library and gallery’s doors.

Despite the picket line and the locks, the union and county were in negotiations all Monday, trying to come up with a tentative agreement for the membership to ratify.

National representative Glen Sonier was “not sure” whether progress is being made. “The union has presented a number of positions to try to resolve it. We’ll find out if it worked tomorrow (Tuesday).” More talks are planned Tuesday.

Meantime Sonier was surprised the county changed the locks on the buildings. “That’s a first…that’s just an added piece to the bully and respect issue.”

– Heather Wright