Greenwich battle of the books opens new chapter

Greenwich ‘battle of the books’ opens new chapter with strike action

04 July 2016

The long-running ‘battle of the books’ in Greenwich opens a new chapter tomorrow (Tuesday 5 July) when library workers strike for 48 hours to save the borough’s mobile library service from closure.

Unite, the country’s largest union, has called for its 84 library members to strike from 00.01 tomorrow (Tuesday 5 July) as Greenwich councillors plough ahead with plans to close the mobile service which delivers 33,000 books a year to children – an increase from the 22,000 books lent last year.

The union said that what is at stake is children’s literacy – the gateway to future employment – which is being jeopardised for a comparatively small annual saving of £126,000; although the council has £320 million stashed away in reserves.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Literacy is a fundamental human right and anything that erodes that life chance should be strongly opposed. Good reading skills are the key to decent employment in adulthood – so the blinkered actions of the council need to be condemned.

 “Councillors have ignored the result of their own consultation exercise and they have ignored the 1,000-strong petition handed into the council.

“They appear to believe that they know better than the experts and have failed to listen to people with decades of experience in this field. They will be depriving the inquiring minds of children of 33,000 books.

“If the mobile service is closed, other libraries will follow - that is what is at stake. That’s why we are fighting this ‘battle of the books’ with such passion.

 “The council’s claim that all the borough’s schools are in walking distance of one of Greenwich’s 12 static libraries is unrealistic, given the busy school day and demands on teachers.”

Unite’s  library members have already staged four days of strike action earlier this year – and have a legal mandate for more industrial action.

The mobile library visits schools, nurseries and children’s centres for those who are unable to visit static libraries. Access for the frail and those with mobility difficulties could also be impacted, as it may isolate them and take their independence away. 

The libraries are run by Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) as a so-called social enterprise set up by Greenwich council to run its leisure services.

Unite said that 75 per cent of GLL’s staff are on zero hours’ contracts and it refuses to pay the London ‘living wage’ of £9.40 per hour to staff who work in the leisure side of the business.


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite regional officer Onay Kasab and/or on 07771 818637

Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email: 

  • 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.