Forty-four Queens library workers could get pink slips as soon as Friday, September 3, as the library tries to balance its budget.
“It’s been very, very excruciating these last 90 days,” said John Hyslop, president of Local 1321, which represents more than 800 workers in Queens. “As far as we’re concerned, the library keeps on making proposals that do not meet our basic demands.”
As recently as Monday, August 30, library officials presented the union with a proposal that would save every single job by making a temporary change where vacation time would be used in the year that it was earned instead of being carried over to the following year. Library officials said the union immediately rejected the proposal without bringing it to the staff for a vote.
Meanwhile, Hyslop said that his union members have been willing to make concessions, but it has asked that the library guarantee no layoffs and whatever concessions are made should be temporary.
“The union demanded a blanket guarantee that no layoffs would occur for the coming year, regardless of any new funding reductions the library were to face in the future,” the Queens Library said in a statement. “In economic times as uncertain as these, it would be fiscally irresponsible to make such an unprecedented promise.”
In addition to the layoffs, Hyslop said that as many as 30 employees, including librarians who have worked at a particular branch for 18 and 30 years, respectively, will be transferred to new locations.
“Moral is abysmal and Queens residents will suffer,” Hyslop said. “This is such a sad situation.”
Meanwhile, Hyslop believes that the Queens workers are being unfairly targeted, saying that the Brooklyn Public Library, which received $500,000 less in funding restoration than the Queens Library, will see zero layoffs compared to the 44 in Queens.
However, Queens Library officials said that it is not possible to compare the situations at the two systems, since they are structured very differently and attrition rates for staff at the two libraries is also very different.
Kane Noel, a customer service representative who has worked at the Central Library in Jamaica for the past two years, is one of the 44 employees who would get laid off if a deal is not struck before Friday.
Noel said that he loves working in the library and serving the community, but losing his job would be devastating because he cares for his two parents and also uses some of his salary to help relatives in Haiti.
“It’s devastating because I have to take care of them,” Noel said. “I have a mortgage, and I really don’t know what I would do next.”
As of Wednesday morning, September 1, no negotiations were taking place between the library and the union, however, both sides acknowledged that could change at any time between now and Friday.