Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/14519

Posted on 16 May 2012 at 18:54 GMT

Victory for Greenwich Unite library campaign

Lessons in the fight against privatisation of public services

Paul Callanan
Greenwich library workers strike against privatisation, 27.4.12 , photo Paul Mattsson

Greenwich library workers strike against privatisation, 27.4.12 , photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Two days of strike action, with the promise of more to come was enough to persuade Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) to begin serious negotiations with the Unite union and to offer the necessary assurances on pay and conditions that staff had been looking for.

This was the culmination of a campaign that began a year ago, initially in opposition to the transfer of the library service from Greenwich council to GLL.

Once the transfer took place on 30 April, the battle turned to winning assurances on pay and conditions. A very real threat existed, because following the transfer all staff would be placed on the same contracts. GLL staff are on worse pay and conditions contracts than council staff.

The council even set out a timetable, offering a two-year protection deal, after which staff could expect pay cuts.

But GLL were not looking forward to an industrial dispute and agreed to meet with Unite. The union now has an assurance that 'downward harmonisation' will not take place. This is a marvellous achievement, especially in the current economic climate.

As the government's austerity measures bite, local authorities will increasingly ignore the views of local communities. Unite made a persistent call for full public consultation on the transfer and called for the question to be put to residents and library users.

Initially, the council arranged a series of public consultation meetings and agreed to do an online survey. But as the opposition grew, it withdrew the online survey and cancelled five public meetings!

Eventually when the public meetings did take place, GLL did not turn up but instead paid a consultant to face the public. At every meeting there was huge, angry opposition to the transfer proposal.

Rather than rely on online surveys, Unite took to the streets. Each Saturday saw stalls set up on high streets and outside libraries where library stewards and Socialist Party members spoke with the public.

Eventually 1,800 Unite postcards were completed and returned, every single one opposing the proposals. These were presented to the council at one of the many lobbies that took place, only for the council to refuse to accept them.

The council and GLL have tried to claim that this is not privatisation because GLL is a 'non-profit making social enterprise', a cooperative. They even claim to be worker-led. Yet this worker-led company pays its director 155,000 while it refuses to pay staff the London living wage of 8.30 an hour! Of its 5,000 workers, only 1,400 are on permanent contracts.

Councils across the country have been handing libraries to these so-called charities and social enterprises. In Bexley, south London, one "charity" now charges for access to its full range of books. Recently, in nearby Lewisham, the power supply was cut off at Sydenham library after the organisation that now runs it refused to pay the bill.

Fightback

Along with hundreds of other libraries around the country, these transfers are destroying the library service. A national, union-led campaign is desperately needed to save our libraries.

There was obvious disappointment that the local campaign was not able to stop the service being transferred and there are lessons to be learnt.

The most important point is that, in the absence of a national fight, library workers were not really confident about strike action until all other options had been exhausted and the council made the announcement.

Nonetheless, the Unite branch won concessions by combining a mass public campaign that won local support, along with an industrial campaign. But if privatisation of our public services is to be stopped, the many local campaigns need to be linked up to a national campaign against privatisation.

The victory won by the workers in Greenwich takes them beyond the normal TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings - Protection of Employment regulations).

TUPE legislation gives workers protection at the point of transfer. While wording in the legislation exists stating that pay and conditions cannot be cut after the transfer if the reason for the cut is linked to the transfer, the reality is that employers simply find another reason under 'ETO' (economic, technical, organisational) reasons.

So as long as they can show that the cut is not linked to the transfer, they get away with it.

New Labour supporting Unison officials have tried to play down the victory by saying that the concessions won by the strike were always there. This is nonsense.

Messages of support poured in for the campaign, with one notable exception. Greenwich Unison.

The library workers were previously Unison members but left in disgust following the witch-hunt carried out by the union against Socialist Party member Onay Kasab who had previously led the branch. Had these workers stayed in Greenwich Unison, there would have been no campaign.

In Unite, they were given the opportunity to fight and won a victory. Greenwich Unison is still run by unelected full time officials who prioritise stamping out any opportunity to fight back. Nonetheless, Unite did invite the branch to join the campaign but without success.

Employers have a habit of breaking agreements. But in this case, a loud message has been sent. Attack our pay and conditions and we will strike.

Now, the task will be to begin organising non-library staff at GLL and building the union so that all GLL workers can fight back. If GLL want the library service, they will get the union organisation that comes with it.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.






Related links:

Greenwich:

triangleWorkplace news in brief

triangleOver a thousand march to fight museums and libraries cuts

triangleCampaigners call on Greenwich council to oppose the Housing Act

triangleHousing campaigners meet to plan resistance to the Housing Act

triangleUnion library campaign strikes blow against Tories

Unite:

triangleMixed Fleet cabin crew announce more strike days

triangleLeeds: Protest against tip stealing

triangleWorkplace news in brief

Library:

triangleLeicester: libraries fightback

triangleLibrary cuts: working class kids suffer most

Council:

triangleCorbyn-supporting mayor oversees cuts to vital services

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

28/2/17

Salford

Corbyn-supporting mayor oversees cuts to vital services

28/2/17

Sheffield

Sheffield meeting against cuts

28/2/17

Russian revolution

Meetings on the 1917 Russian Revolution

27/2/17

London

Picturehouse strikers stage lively demo

27/2/17

Protest

RMT plans protest against 'driver only' Merseyrail trains

27/2/17

British Airways

Mixed Fleet cabin crew announce more strike days

27/2/17

Grantham

Grantham: 1,000 march for reopening of A&E

27/2/17

Leeds

Leeds: Protest against tip stealing

24/2/17

Spelthorne

Needed: socialist councillors

22/2/17

Bristol

Bristol: Hundreds march against council cuts

22/2/17

Fighting Fund

A world to win - give us the resources!

22/2/17

Leicester

Leicester Unison no-cuts budget call

22/2/17

Trump

Socialism not Trumpism: Thousands more protest and plan to walkout

22/2/17

Union

Workplace news in brief

22/2/17

Unison

Unison Women's Conference

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle28 Feb Corbyn-supporting mayor oversees cuts to vital services

triangle27 Feb Picturehouse strikers stage lively demo

triangle27 Feb Mixed Fleet cabin crew announce more strike days

triangle24 Feb Byelections: Break with Labour Blairism wasn't on offer

triangle24 Feb Needed: socialist councillors

triangle22 Feb Support the NHS? Join the march!

triangle22 Feb Thousands more protest and plan to walkout

More ...

triangle28 Feb Bristol Socialist Party: February 1917 Russian Revolution

triangle28 Feb London Socialist Students: How is the Russian Revolution relevant to LGBT+ liberation?

triangle28 Feb Manchester Socialist Party: Where does British capitalism come from?

triangle28 Feb Birmingham South East Socialist Party: The Battle of Cable Street

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice