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The employees of Bibliothèques et Archives nationales du Québec ended five days of strike action on Saturday. It has been almost 3 years since their collective agreement expired and more than 5 years since they received a salary increase. In addition to better working conditions, they are demanding a salary closer to those of other libraries in Quebec, where employees are sometimes paid more than $10,000 more than at the BAnQ, explains Sylviane Cossette, president of the STTU-BAnQ-CSN, the union representing them.
She continues: "We have our comparables who are the city libraries, the universities, the colleges, and very often they're paid more. [...] and since we are a national institution, the other organizations refer to us, but they are paid more than us. There's a certain inconsistency here." Indeed, a BAnQ employee can expect to make about $33,000 a year, while municipal library employees are offered up to $49,000 per year.
Because of the stagnation of their salaries in the last few years, inflation is hitting the BAnQ employees particularly hard. "Our purchasing power has dropped a lot," explains Mélissa Boutet, an employee of the Grande Bibliothèque de Montréal. "After that, people lose a bit of passion for their work," added Sylviane Cossette.
The 5-day strike that interrupted a large part of the services of 13 branches of the BAnQ was part of a 10-day strike bank voted by 94% of the union members during a general assembly held on January 16. "We are already ready, we already have a plan of action to use our 5 remaining days if ever it does not advance," said the president of the union representing 350 employees.
She adds, "We feel that the five days we have just spent at the bargaining table have unblocked something." However, the BAnQ employees are determined not to accept an offer that does not meet the challenges of inflation.
The president also emphasizes the important role of Bibliothèques et Archives nationales du Québec for the province's cultural heritage: "We want people to realize the importance we have, that we are indispensable for the institution, because we are the guardians of this culture and this history. According to her, many employees stay at the BAnQ out of love for the institution and its mission, but this represents a sacrifice for these workers who see their real salary decrease with the inflation that is exploding.
She concludes by thanking the users of the libraries and archives who supported them in their struggle: "If people want to continue to encourage us, they can share our demands on social media, they can even write on the BAnQ page to tell us that they support us."