Sport instructors could be asked to clean the libraries in Greenwich, London, as privatisation of local government services gathers pace, Unite, the country’s largest union, has warned.
In a ‘smoke-and-mirrors’ move, Greenwich council is outsourcing the services provided by its building cleaners who now face working on the minimum wage, while its own employees have their pay and conditions protected.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “What is happening is the council, which proclaims its commitment to the London ‘living wage’, is hiving off these services to its social enterprise partner, which, in turn, plans to bring in its own cleaners on the minimum wage of £6.19.
“One scenario we think could happen is that you could have highly qualified sports instructors being asked to clean the borough’s 12 libraries and its mobile library. This could happen particularly where the library and leisure centre are attached, such as at Eltham.”
Unite is due to meet the council on 7 May to discuss the ramifications of the dispute which stems from the council’s controversial move in April 2012 to put its social enterprise partner Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) in charge of the borough’s leisure centres and libraries.
It is understood that GLL will no longer use GSPLus - another company set up by the council - to provide its cleaning services. Instead it will bring in its own cleaners and pay them the minimum wage, significantly less than the current rate paid to cleaners.
The current cleaners are being told by GSPLus that their hours are to be cut because GLL does not want them - and GSPlus do not have hours elsewhere to offer them.
Onay Kasab added: “At the time that the council handed the library services over to GLL, the specification document stated clearly that all staff on the contract would be paid the London ‘living wage’ of £8.55-a-hour.
“However - a year on - it clearly has no problem with companies, running council services, who pay lower rates.
"This shows the reality of handing over public services to a so-called social enterprise. By a slight of hand, which GLL hoped nobody would notice, cleaning staff will lose their jobs cleaning libraries and will be replaced by staff on lower pay.
“GLL should be ashamed of itself. If the elected councillors are also aware of this ‘smoke and mirrors’ manoeuvre, they, too, should share this shame.
“If the council hands services over to companies which avoid the London ‘living wage’ in this way, the commitment is like a devalued currency - and becomes a bit shabby."
For further information please contact Onay Kasab on 07771818637 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.