Greenwich libraries face the prospect of severe disruption or closure when staff strike for two days next week, when libraries are particularly busy because of school half-term, in the dispute over staff cuts and pay.
The strikes on 30 and 31 October, follow the completely solid strike on 14 October when 86 senior library assistants and library assistants, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, walked out. Only one of the borough’s 12 libraries was able to open on 14 October.
The crux of the dispute is the behaviour of Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), the social enterprise company, awarded the contract in 2012 by Greenwich council to run the borough’s library service.
GLL has said that it will not replicate any pay rises that are awarded to local government workers, which was previously the case until a change in the law.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab warned: “The strikes next week will impact on parents wishing to take their children to local libraries. Half- term is always a time when libraries are particularly busy.
“We have warned GLL that there would be more industrial action, unless it gets around the negotiating table.
“During the last strike day, Unite members were subjected to disgusting abuse and threats from two workmen hired by the council to cross picket lines, open the libraries, and, basically, try unsuccessfully to break the strike.”
Onay Kasab said that since GLL took over in 2012, its record has been ‘disastrous’, with one library already closed, the mobile service under constant threat and staff being cut.
The union estimates 12 staff have been lost under GLL. The current workforce numbers about 100.
He added: “On top of these cuts GLL has said it will not be replicating any pay rises that local authority workers get, which amounts to a kick in the teeth for those workers left to provide the service.
“Greenwich councillors need to take a long hard look at GLL - libraries are a public service and belong in the public sector.”
Unite members are working to rule with no Sunday working, no covering events and not getting to work early to open up and, as a result, senior managers have been ‘scuttling round’ the borough to cover.
A lobby of the full council meeting on 5 November has been organised by Unite which is due to start at 18.00. Onay Kasab has asked to address the councillors on the dispute - but is still waiting to hear whether he will be allowed to make the library staff’s case.
GLL runs a number of leisure centres across the capital and uses zero-hour contracts for two thirds of its staff - yet the company claims to be a ‘social enterprise’.
For further information please contact Unite regional officer Onay Kasab on 07771 818 637 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693 940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
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.