Union campaign strikes blow against Bromley Tories

Greenwich Unite library campaigners in 2012, photo by Paul Mattsson

Greenwich Unite library campaigners in 2012, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

A Unite member

Unite the Union members are celebrating another victory against the privatisation plans of the vicious Tories who run Bromley Council. The council had plans to hand eight libraries over to charities to run with volunteers only.

The remainder were to be privatised as part of a joint attack along with the Tories on Bexley Council. The two councils planned to do one tendering exercise in order to minimise the cost of the tendering process – never mind the cost to the service, jobs or the pay and conditions of library workers.

First, a determined union-led campaign forced the charity “Bromley Community Link” to pull out. Now in a dramatic turn, Bexley Council have said that they are not proceeding with plans to privatise their libraries.

This is another big victory for the long running campaign and leaves Bromley council totally discredited.

Despite this, Bromley Council have issued a statement saying that they are going to go ahead on their own and privatise all their libraries!

They certainly are on their own – 80% of residents who responded to the council consultation exercise said that they do not want their library services privatised.

The union believes that organisations such as Carillion are lining up to take over the service. This is the same blacklisting company which, when not victimising trade union members, took over libraries in Croydon and immediately imposed redundancies.

In an attempt to hide the fact that the company would run the service based on making a profit rather than the needs of residents, the council have publicly stated that this is not privatisation – but is in fact “outsourcing”.

But this crude propaganda fools nobody. Unite is now preparing to target a campaign against Carillion and has promised that further strike action will follow in defence of libraries.

This campaign has won victories because it is a trade union-led campaign – community campaigns are vital, but just as vital is that the trade unions representing the workers in libraries take the lead.

This has also been the case in Greenwich where Socialist Party members in the Unite branch have led and won campaigns stopping library closures, defending permanent jobs and halting casualisation while protecting pay and conditions.

The message is clear – trade unions have the power to save our libraries as demonstrated by Unite members in Bexley and Greenwich.