Library Strike Leads To Hefty Surplus

The County of Essex is getting a boost to reserves thanks to the library strike.

A $790,000 surplus has been built up as the board realizes the savings of library workers being out on the picket lines since June 25 of 2016.

County councillors moved the surplus to reserves in a vote at a budget meeting on Wednesday.

Leamington Mayor John Paterson and Deputy Mayor Hilda McDonald voted against the motion. Paterson questioned if the money could be returned to each municipality instead, but didn't make a motion to that effect.

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo had a conflict of interest so abstained from the vote.

Leamington Mayor John Paterson (right) and Deputy Mayor Hilda MacDonald (left) attend the 2017 budget meeting for the county on February 1, 2017.

Leamington Mayor John Paterson (right) and Deputy Mayor Hilda MacDonald (left) attend the 2017 budget meeting for the county on February 1, 2017. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

There's no increase in the 2017 library budget from last year, but there is $15,000 to hire a firm to handle a "cultural audit" as Chief Librarian Robin Greenall put it.

She says the third-party hired will help mend fences once the strike finally ends and librarians come back into work.

"Maybe these were pre-existing communication issues that we may have had and how else we can address them and going forward — and that's what this is about — we're going to draw a line in the sand and we're going to go forward," says Greenall. "How are we going to relate and interact and work together so we can better our team development."

Greenall isn't sure how hard it will be to make peace once the long labour dispute finally ends.

"I think the process will be as difficult as we all make it to be," says Greenall.  "I think once we can all settle down and we can recognize that we actually have a shared vision and we have a shared service. We all would like to return services to our community."

Greenall feels the "cultural audit" is needed.

"Perhaps when everyone comes back we all sigh and we take a moment and we all get back to work, but I think reality is is that we are going to have some hurdles that we're going to have to step through."

Greenall adds on top of the budget freeze for library services in 2017 — only ten months of staff salary has been budgeted.