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Half of Sask. library workers surveyed have experienced violence on the job, union says


The union that represents public library workers in the province says half of its members have experienced violence at work.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees surveyed more than 15 per cent of its public library workers between June and September 2022, with the majority of responses coming from members in the Regina and Saskatoon public libraries.

“This report makes it clear that public library workers across the province are facing unacceptable incidents of harassment, abuse, and violence in their workplaces,” CUPE Saskatchewan president Judy Henley said in a news release.

“More needs to be done to make sure our libraries are welcoming and safe places for both workers and the public.”

According to CUPE’s report, 78 per cent of respondents experienced verbal abuse, 71 per cent have witnessed violence, and nearly half have been subjected to threats of physical harm.

One respondent said they had been sexually harassed “many times” by intoxicated patrons.

In Saskatoon, two library branches were forced to close to the public for two weeks in February 2022 because staff no longer felt safe at work.

"A library worker who asked a patron to wear a face mask was punched in the face. There was an attempted abduction of a library worker when she was leaving work at night," CUPE representative Rhonda Heisler told CTV News at the time.

"Some workers are afraid to go to work and many have varying degrees of anxiety stemming directly from their workplaces."

Library workers regularly face drug overdoses and are forced to call police due to illegal activity or "unruly behaviour," Heisler said.

Survey respondents outlined understaffing as one reason library workers are so often reportedly put in harm’s way.

“We have been frequently understaffed when working the floor. There currently is zero break coverage so we have to leave our coworkers unsupported. This is significant on evening and weekends when there is no manager / supervisor in the building,” said one respondent.

Respondents also said enforcement often falls to library staff because security staff were poorly paid and untrained.

“Turnover of the security guards is frequent, meaning they are unfamiliar with our policies and patron interactions.”

CUPE represents about 650 public library workers in Saskatchewan, including in Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and three regional library systems.

-With files from Josh Lynn Top Stories

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