Unite hails ‘victory’ in Greenwich library dispute

Unite hails ‘victory’ in Greenwich library dispute

31 October 2014

The dispute over pay and staff cuts affecting Greenwich’s 12 libraries has been settled in what Unite, the country’s largest union, described as ‘a great victory for employee solidarity and for the preservation of an important public service’.

More than 80 senior library assistants and library assistants were taking strike action yesterday (Thursday 30 October) when they agreed to suspend their action after the new deal was hammered out. Today’s (Friday 31 October) strike has been suspended and Unite members are working normally.

The crux of the dispute was 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 had presided over staff cutbacks and had said that it would not replicate pay awards given to local government workers.

The settlement, which is subject to further talks, has three elements: 

  • Unite estimated that 13.5 full-time equivalent library posts (FTE) were needed. GLL has now offered 12.5 FTE jobs. The union estimates that this equates to 17 new staff. 
  • GLL said it will adhere to whatever is agreed in the current local government pay round. 
  • GLL agreed that there would be no cuts to the borough’s library service, unless instructed by its client, Greenwich council. 
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Unite members in Greenwich have won an important victory in defence of libraries as a public service and by showing solidarity, they have made large gains on the staffing and pay issues. 

“They have shown that the bosses can be taken on and be forced to back down, if you are well-organised and determined enough. I congratulate every one of our members who won this victory.

“Members have agreed to suspend the action as clearly the proposals meet our demands as near as possible to 100 per cent. The next stage is to meet the employers and agree the timetable for the recruitment process and also establish a system for ensuring that, in future, all vacant posts are filled.”

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.

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.