Greenwich library workers plan further walkout to address 'appalling' pay and working conditions

Mary Summers, Unite regional officer, at the Eltham Centre in Greenwich, London, UK
Mary Summers, Unite regional officer, said the union felt GLL was depicted as a substandard employer -Credit:Joe Coughlan

Library workers in Greenwich have planned a further day of strike action to protest against 'appalling' pay and working conditions. Unite workers’ union members working in libraries in Greenwich have arranged a 24-hour strike for April 30 after the union claimed employer Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) had failed to negotiate an appropriate resolution to an ongoing dispute.

The walkout will reportedly include over 60 workers. Unite has claimed that some employees of GLL are still being paid below the London Living Wage and said the implementation of a rise has been delayed by nearly six months.

The union said employees were ‘furious’ and GLL had refused all offers from Unite to negotiate. A previous strike on March 26 saw over 100 library workers in Bromley and Greenwich take industrial action over the dispute.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said in a statement: "GLL is behaving appallingly, and our members won't stand for it. There are an excess of injustices that come with zero hours contracts and a so-called social enterprise should be ashamed to use them. Our members are ready to fight for better pay and working conditions and Unite is right behind them."

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Eltham Library is based in the Eltham Centre on Archery Road, Greenwich, London, UK
Eltham Library is based in the Eltham Centre on Archery Road -Credit:Joe Coughlan

The union also claimed GLL’s members of staff who were not permanent employees could not be elected to its representative board. They said out of 10,800 staff, 6,313 were on zero hour contracts and could not stand for the board.

However, GLL has denied this claim and stated that it does not offer zero hour contracts. The trust told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that it offers flexible working arrangements to allow staff to work in whatever way they choose. They added that all staff had the ability to move from flexible contracts to permanent contracts.

Unite regional officer, Mary Summers said in a statement that the union was taking action as it felt GLL staff were being treated like ‘second class citizens’ in terms of pay and working conditions. She claimed that systematic failures in the trust to implement rises to the living wage had depicted GLL as a substandard employer.

A GLL spokesperson told the LDRS: "We remain disappointed and perplexed by Unite’s continued campaign against GLL, especially as we have made every effort to engage with the Union and listen to their views. This library strike does not reflect the opinion of the vast majority of our colleagues who are passionate about providing high quality library services. By Unite’s admission, a small minority of staff are taking part."

The spokesperson said that the trust did not feel that Unite’s campaign reflected the genuine concerns of its staff and it believed that it was manufactured to reflect the union’s national and political agendas. They said that all employees received a pay rise of at least 5 per cent this April and the trust was an accredited Real Living Wage employer.

They added: "Our commitment to staff and local communities in employment, career opportunities, fair pay, development and training is second to none and one of the reasons we are proud to hold Investors in People Gold accreditation. Our focus remains on ensuring that a quality library service continues to be delivered to local communities in Greenwich and that will be the case on April 30."

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