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Campaigners in London march to save our libraries, mus...

Campaigners in London march to save our libraries, museums and galleries

01 November 2016

Members of Britain’s largest union Unite will be joining librarians and campaigners in a joint march with Unison and the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union to save our libraries, museums and galleries on Saturday (5 November).

The London march sees campaigners assemble at 12 noon outside the British Library, Euston Road (NW1 2DB) before marching to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square for a rally.

Saturday’s event comes amid a national crisis threatening the future of the nation’s public libraries, museums and galleries, with figures from the BBC earlier in the year showing that over a quarter of library staff have been axed since 2010 and over 343 libraries closed. 

More recently both the Conservative run Westminster city council and Kensington and Chelsea council have become the latest local authorities to plan cuts. Their proposals to axe all librarians, follows attempts by the London borough of Bromley to sell-off and privatise its treasured libraries.

Commenting Unite national officer Fiona Farmer said: “Tory government cuts to local government funding have wrought havoc to our public libraries with hundreds closing and councils like Westminster seeking to axe all librarians with no public consultation.

“What we are seeing community by community is an act of cultural and educational vandalism. Libraries are the gateway to knowledge, learning and enjoyment for all ages of people from all walks of life. Yet more and more communities are seeing their library disappear or service diminish because of librarian cuts or failed privatisation.

“The demonstration in London will be an opportunity to say to the government hands off our libraries and to councils like Westminster to drop their callous plans to axe librarians with masses of expertise.” 

In galleries and museums the most recent survey by the Museums Association showed a 24 per cent decrease in staff numbers in 2015, with 18 per cent of respondents saying that part of their museum had close to the public in the past year.

As well as cutting jobs and pay, many museum and gallery visitor services are being privatised, as organisations look to short-term measures to cut costs, including at the National Gallery in London, sparking a long-running, high profile strike last year. The unions say the profit motive has no place in the running of our cultural institutions.

Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Given the clear benefits arts and culture bring to our society and our economy, cuts to libraries, museums and galleries represent everything wrong with the Tories' approach to public spending. 

“While institutions are closing, privatising services or charging for access, the staff who guard our nation's cultural treasures are languishing on low pay and insecure contracts."

ENDS  

For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869. 

Notes to editors:

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.