Comment

Several days of strike action have been announced in Greenwich by the union Unite against the takeover of the council’s public libraries by the leisure trust GLL.  Arguments on either side:

Pro Trust arguments
  • Transfer was completed after a consultation.
  • GLL is a non-profit staff co-operative
  • Terms and conditions are protected by TUPE.
  • Libraries will be open longer, with catering and creches.
  • See other pro trust arguments from the trusts webpage.

Anti Trust arguments

  • Consultation was short and misleading, with some sessions being held after the decision was made.
  • Four-fifths of GLL staff are employed on a casual basis.  Although two members of staff sit on the Trust board, this is hardly a majority.  The chief executive of GLL is earning a very high salary. This is questionable when all profits should go back to the service.
  • TUPE protection only covers staff at the point of transfer.  New, lesser, terms and conditions can then be given to the same staff after transfer.
  • One library, Ferrier, has already closed its doors this week.
  • See other anti trust arguments from the trusts webpage.

News

  • Bit rotEconomist.  Digital data is often lost due to changing formats.  A solution would be, despite what publishers may say, the storage of information by librarians.

This Week in Libraries – Ben Hammersley (UK Prime Minister’s Ambassador to TechCity) on the future of librariesSome great quotes in here.  For instance, Ben says that libraries are an indicator of the cultural health of a city.  So, high-earning can-live-anywhere people would prefer to live in a city with good public libraries than one with none.

Image courtesy of Theresa McCracken
  • Villagers’ petition wins high speed internet for 4500 people – NAPLE (Serbia).  “What amazed us was that the villagers brought their petition to the village library, and asked the librarians to contact the public library in town’ said Ms Suzana Tanasijević, a librarian at Public Library Radislav Nikčević in Jagodina. ‘It means that the villagers now see the public library as an initiator of change in the community.’”

Changes

Local News

  • Barnet – Temporary library opens at artdepot – Barnet and Whetstone Press.  In an effort to appease members of the Save Friern Barnet Library group, cabinet member for customer access, Robert Rams announced an agreement to use one of Barnet College’s rooms for the temporary book loan service  A council spokesman said the stop-gap library, which will be open for three hours a day, four days a week, will offer around 10,000 items, as well as newspapers, magazines and a study space. Activities for children and young people are also in the pipeline, he said.”
  • Camden – Volunteers get Chalk Farm LibraryCamden New Journal.   “Due to a 25 per cent cut in the Town Hall’s budget for libraries, Chalk Farm has joined the Belsize and Heath libraries in becoming independently run. The group who have taken on the new Chalk Farm Library in Sharpeshall Street have been given a 20-year lease on the building with a six-year no-rent deal. They have also been handed a £119,000 pot by Camden Council to help with management costs.”
  • Ealing – Three libraries to benefit but temporary closures have been criticised – Ealing Today.  Money recovered from the failed Icelandic bank, Glitnir will be used to refurbish Hanwell and Perivale Libraries and relocate Southall Library.”.  Conservative councillor says “‘It was only thanks to a massive campaign last year by Conservative Councillors and residents, who presented petitions, signed by over 8,000 residents, that made Labour decide to backtrack on closing our libraries.”
  • Greenwich – Libraries takeover: GLL boss speaks out – 853.   “Members of the Unite union are protesting about the way Greenwich Council has decided to transfer the service to Greenwich Leisure Limited from next week.” Council had made it clear a year ago that transfer was an option.  Comments suggest that TUPE protections will soon be lost and that the consultation was secretive and misleading.  One consultation was held in March 2012, after the decision to transfer had taken place.
“We want to see facilities open at weekends, in the evenings, on bank holidays and when more people can access them. We also think that libraries, like leisure centres, should have good catering, creche and good transport links as well as extensive access to new technology, plenty of study space and a good relevant book stock. We are very much looking forward to taking over the service and giving the Borough a library service which is second to none in the Capital. Of course, the staff in Greenwich libraries will be apprehensive about any changes, this is natural. They need not worry really though, because GLL is a staff owned cooperative and ultimately they (the library staff) will be responsible for their own part of the service. I cannot answer for the trades union view, although it seems to me that striking because yor employer has changed – even though your employment rights and terms and conditions are guaranteed by law – is not really going to get us anywhere.” Mark Sesnan, GLL managing director.

“GLL likes to give the impression that it is a model employer. But what sort of model employer employs four fifths of its total staff of 5000 on a casual basis? We have spoken with GLL casual staff who tell us how it is impossible to plan lives when you may go 3 or 4 weeks without being offered work. The company recently implemented a pay review whereby new staff in roles such as Life Guards will earn less than coleagues carrying out an identical role. So you do exactly the same job, to the same standard but earn thousands of pounds a year less. This is not how a model employer operates.” Onay Kasab, UNITE branch secretary.

    • Libraries staff to strike over GLL takeover – 853.   UNITE staff to strike for five days.
    • Library staff to hold four day strike – News Shopper.   “The union claims proper consultation was not carried out, that jobs could be put at risk by the move, and any new staff will be employed on worse pay and conditions. Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The council has lost no time in claiming the good times are coming to the borough as a result of the Olympics. But here is the real story.”
  • Surrey – Libraries should be run by professionals, not by volunteers – Eagle Radio.   “Earlier this month, Mr Justice Wilkie upheld a technical challenge over a decision to create 10 community-run libraries staffed by volunteers, although he did not criticise the policy itself. The council has now decided to bring the proposal back to a Cabinet meeting on 19th June, when it will consider all the work that has been done to develop a comprehensive training package for volunteers. A further consultation about equalities training for volunteers at community libraries will take place before then.”
  • Torbay – Friends fighting to save libraries’ jobs and hours – This is South Devon.   “a reduction of about 30 hours was anticipated across the four libraries in the Bay and said that as a result staff had been asked to voluntarily reduce their own working hours to match that up.”
  • Warwickshire – Opening of Bidford Library – Coventry Telegraph.   “Bidford Library has been running as a community enterprise since the end of March in the wake of massive cuts to Warwickshire County Council’s libraries budget. Chairman Mike Gerrard said: “The first month of operation has been a great success, which bodes well for the future, provided that the enthusiasm of the volunteers and the response from the public can be sustained.” Author Anne Fine will officially open the library, in Bramley Way, at 4pm on Wednesday.”
  • Worcestershire – Kidderminster Library gallery users “not given enough time” to comment – Shuttle.   “Library users say they have not been given enough time to comment on plans to move the gallery and piano. A consultation event is under way at the library to highlight proposals which could see 90 desks and 139 staff from Worcestershire County Council’s adult and social care and children’s services move into the top-floor space. The gallery and piano would be moved to the ground floor and first floor respectively.”