AROUND 100 members of the giant union Unite working across 13 Greenwich libraries last week began five days’ industrial action over privatisation of their workplaces.
Greenwich Council proposes to privatise library services by transferring it out to Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), where staff are already on poorer pay and conditions and do not receive the London Living Wage of £8.30-an-hour.
GLL has said it intends to “harmonise” terms and conditions in the near future, which has led the union members to believe it will lead to race to the bottom – harmonising to the poorer conditions.
By setting up stalls outside libraries, Unite recently conducted a public consultation exercise and asked the public to vote on whether they wanted the service transferred out. This got overwhelming support and resulted in over 1,600 signed postcards returned saying no to the transfer.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “We have the full support of the public on this campaign as GLL has no experience running libraries. Despite promising to do so, the council has failed to carry out its own survey. We believe this was due to the huge opposition the council knows exists regarding the transfer.
“During Unite’s public consultation, many fears were voiced by the public and library users. Not only do many believe that services will suffer, there are also great fears that GLL will close the smaller libraries and that the mobile library service will be scrapped – a service essential to those unable to travel.
“Disgust was also expressed at the introduction of charges for services such as use of computers – a service thousands of people on lower incomes have come to rely on.”