| Nov 30, 2006

Feature Article - November 30, 2006

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Feature Article - November 30, 2006

Mandatory retirement catches library page

by Jeff Green

Ruth Pearce has a lot of experience as a librarian. In fact, she has a bit too much experience for the Kingston Frontenac Public Library (KFPL), by about a year and a half.

Ruth’s history with the Sharbot Lake library goes back to the beginnings of the library in the late 1960’s. She was a volunteer librarian when the library was a mere pilot project.

She also worked as the librarian at Sharbot Lake High School for many years, and when she retired from that job, Ruth Pearce kept her hand in as a page and a relief library assistant at the Sharbot Lake branch of the KFPL.

Her job as a page was a four-hour a week position, and she has also worked as a library assistant, a unionised job, on an occasional basis.


Ruth, who turned 66 this past March, thoroughly enjoyed her part time job and had no plans to retire.

She never gave much thought to her age, until she was working in the library one day in August, and noticed that a job posting for another page position in Sharbot Lake said the applicant must be between 16 and 64 years of age.

“One of the supervisors happened to be in the library with me at the time, and I said, ‘How come they didn’t ask me to retire when I turned 65?’”

On October 12th, Ruth Pearce received a short correspondence from the Chief Librarian of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library, Deborah Defoe.

The letter said, “It has been brought to my attention that both of us have been remiss in overlooking your 65th birthday. According to Article 29.01 of the Collective Agreement your date for retirement should have been March 31st, 2005. Because of our mutual oversight, I am now prepared to accept Sept. 30, 2006 as your retirement date.

Happy retirement, DD”

These events took place in the context of major changes to mandatory retirement in Ontario . Effective December 12th of this year, as the result of changes to the human rights code, mandatory retirement at age 65 will be a thing of the past in the province.

Pam Harris, the president of the CUPE local that represents unionised employees at the library, pointed out to the News in a telephone interview that there is a three-month grace period before December 12th, during which time most employers are refraining from forcing retirement on employees who turn 65. She said that she tried to intervene with library management on Ruth Pearce’s behalf, hoping that the library might reconsider enforcing mandatory retirement in this unusual case.

“We were told that the employee is expected to know that there is a clause in the contract that says they have to retire at 65. We argued that both the employer and the employee had ignored this, and we were now in the grace period, but we were unsuccessful.”

Ruth Pearce told the News that she had hoped to discuss the matter with the chief librarian in person. When that did not take place, she wrote a letter to Deborah Defoe.

In the letter she wrote that she feels she is still capable of performing her duties at the library, and since legislative changes are imminent, she had hoped Ms. Defoe would have been more flexible and communicative about the matter.

“I am irked that Deborah Defoe refused to communicate with me in person. I did not appreciate how it was done.”

When asked about Ruth Pearce’s retirement, library spokesperson Sheila Quigley told the News it is a personnel matter and their policy is not to comment to the media about personnel matters.

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