Sixty of Bromley's library staff to strike in April

Sixty of Bromley's library staff to strike in April

Around 60 members of library staff in Bromley are to stage a week-long strike as part of a campaign to prevent Bromley council from privatising local libraries.

The Unite staff members at 14 of Bromley's libraries will strike from the 1st April.

According to Unite, the campaign has seen construction firm Carillion and a scheme run by volunteers withdraw from the bidding process, leaving only one private bidder left in place. Unite claims this final bidder is Greenwich Leisure Limited, although the council has refused to confirm this.

The union is also organising a petition to collect more than 500 signatures needed to force the council to debate the issue.

Onay Kasab, the union’s regional officer, said: “The council says that it will be making a decision on the library service’s future sometime in May. Unite’s firm view is that libraries are for the benefit of the public and should not be considered as a ripe source of profit for the private sector.

“Bromley’s libraries are well used by people from all walks of life right across the borough. They are an essential point of social contact which provide learning and enjoyment for all generations.

“Bromley’s libraries should remain ‘in house’ and to ensure that happens the public need to rise up and make their voice heard.”

Councillor Peter Morgan, executive councillor for renewal and recreation, told The Bookseller that there was a "fundamental difference of opinion" between the council and the library campaigners.

“There is a fundamental difference of opinion here, with the Council firmly committed to getting best value for council taxpayers in the way that services are delivered and I am sure residents will understand this", he said. "Ultimately, we are looking at all of the services we provide here and in that sense, libraries are no different."

He continued: "We cannot have public negotiations with potential contractors as everyone will understand. Getting best value means we can better provide and protect services that residents need and value, with decisions finally taken at the end of the process. Ironically, this proposal is actually based on providing the same library service that exists currently. The vast majority of libraries have stayed open on other occasions when the union has taken similar unnecessary industrial action. I am mindful of our staff at this time and I would like to pay tribute to our library staff for their professional dedication to serving residents."

Library workers in Bromley also held a week of strike action last year, with library staff staging a march down the high street to protest the privatisation of services and plans to replace employees at 14 libraries in the borough with volunteers.