Library workers stage protest over ‘very low’ pay as strikes loom in new year

By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter

Library workers are protesting against their employer, claiming the contractor has “refused” to negotiate over pay.

Unite workers’ union members working in libraries in Bromley and Greenwich staged a protest outside the Eltham Centre yesterday against the service provider, Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL).

The demonstration comes after Unite claimed this week that library workers for GLL were experiencing “very low” rates of pay.

Eltham Library is based in the Eltham Centre in Archery Road, Greenwich (Picture: Joe Coughlan)

They said in a statement on Tuesday that some staff were being paid as low as £12.10 an hour. The real London living wage currently stands at £13.15 an hour.

The union also criticised the five per cent pay rise that GLL workers saw this year and claimed it had refused to implement an acceptable occupational sick pay scheme, which GLL has refuted.

Unite regional officer Mary Summers said at the protest: “It’s very difficult to ensure that everyone gets five per cent. it doesn’t work out that way. And obviously five per cent at the rate of inflation at the moment, which is 11 per cent, doesn’t go even near the cost of living. So we’re saying that our workers deserve more.”

She added: “If the libraries service in Greenwich and Bromley was actually in house still, they would be on better pay and conditions than GLL staff. We’re saying we want parity with that, which obviously affects pay but also their sickness [pay].”

Ms Summers said the union had been involved in previous meetings with GLL but claimed the social enterprise was not prepared to negotiate on pay rises.

But she said the contractor was looking into taking steps to improve its sickness policy for staff. The union said in a statement last week that 70 library workers for GLL in Greenwich borough had agreed to strike in the new year, which would lead to widespread closures of libraries across the borough.

A GLL spokesman said: “We are extremely disappointed by Unite’s decision to call for strike action amongst GLL library staff working within the Royal Borough of Greenwich. We have made every effort to engage with the union, listen to their views and avert a strike.”

The spokesman said GLL was proud to be an accredited Real Living Wage employer. They said staff received a pay award value of five per cent this year and up to 12 per cent for colleagues at the lower end of their pay scales. They said the social enterprise invited Unite to complete a pay submission for 2024 to use for consideration on plans for next year, but that a submission was not received.

Pictured top: Mary Summers, Unite regional officer, said the union feels that its workers deserve more (Picture: Joe Coughlan)

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