The troubled stewardship of Bromley libraries by controversial social enterprise Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) is again under the spotlight as employees at the Central Library are balloted for strike action over late night openings with fewer staff.

The 17 staff, members of Unite the union, will be balloted for strike action from tomorrow (Friday 30 April) over new shift patterns, with the ballot closing on Friday 14 May.

The latest dispute follows the eight-month strike by 50 library staff working in the borough’s 14 libraries over such issues as pay progression and staff structuring which ended in January 2020.

This new dispute is about a proposed change to working hours so that staff, instead of working one late night every two weeks, will work four late nights every two weeks. Part time staff, who currently do not work late nights, will now be required to work one late night a fortnight.

Unite said that the late nights plans, which only involve staff at Bromley Central Library, come following a reduction in staffing – so it will mean fewer staff to cover longer opening hours.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “We, of course, want libraries to be open for as many hours as possible – but this has to come with sufficient staffing levels.

“GLL has previous ‘form’ on attacking library staff’s terms and conditions as witnessed by the eight-month strike across all Bromley’s libraries that was settled in January last year.

“Fewer staff with longer opening hours does not add up. This shows how right we were to take strike action previously to defend jobs.

“While our action between June 2019 and January 2020 prevented compulsory redundancies, vacancies have not been filled as they should have been.

“GLL has never hidden the fact that its operating model is to win contracts by bidding cheap then make savings through so-called restructuring.

“GLL chief executive Mark Sesnan has toured the TV studios admitting that GLL’s reserves have been reduced to nothing – this so-called social enterprise has no reserves.

“So why is GLL, which is in such huge financial difficulty, being entrusted with library services?

“We believe that libraries will be more vital than ever coming out of lockdown as the vast array of services offered, not just books but access to IT, information, assistance with forms, group events and social interaction, will be incredibly important for communities.

“If GLL cannot afford to staff services, it is time for the service to be returned to local authority control – which has always been Unite’s position.”


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

Please note the numbers above are for journalists’ enquiries only.

Email: [email protected]

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