Remember, remember the 5th of November…

Fight the ‘burning’ of our museums and libraries!

Greenwich Unite library campaigners in 2012, photo Paul Mattsson

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

A Unite the Union organiser

It’s the national demo that library and museum campaigners have been demanding for years – and on 5 November trade unions and community campaigns from across the country will finally march together, united in our demand to save our libraries and museums.

Hundreds of libraries and many museums have closed nationwide since the 2010 Tory-Lib Dem coalition government. But there are magnificent community campaigns taking place in towns and cities fighting the cuts and closures. What’s been missing is a trade union-led movement that brings campaigners together as part of a national mobilisation.

Museum and gallery workers play a vital role, yet they face low pay, cuts to funding, attacks on job contracts and pensions, as well as privatisation.

Local authorities have closed and privatised libraries – in some cases keeping them open using volunteers instead of paid, professional staff.

But there has been a fightback, with significant victories along the way. Strike action and campaigning at the National Gallery, Tate, National Museums Scotland and National Museums Wales show the potential to win.

The long running campaign in Bromley, south east London, shows what can be done against a Tory majority council, where the intention is to privatise the whole library service.

First, the campaign won the PR battle when over 80% of respondents to the council’s own consultation exercise rejected privatisation.

Then the campaign won a victory when a proposal to replace staff with volunteers was scrapped after the volunteer organisation dropped out due to pressure from the campaign.

The hat-trick of humiliation for the council came when the Tories running neighbouring Bexley council decided that Bromley was toxic and dropped out of the joint privatisation tendering project for the library service.

In Greenwich, victorious campaigns led by Socialist Party members in key union positions have protected staff pay, conditions, stopped library closures and halted casualisation, while winning permanent jobs.

The campaign is now fighting to preserve a library service for schools after the Labour council scrapped the mobile library service, which issued 30,000 books to children each year.

There is no time to lose – our cultural services are under the gravest threat ever.

This march will be a big step toward uniting those fantastic local campaigns into a national movement to save our museums and libraries.

Since 2010:

  • 8,000 paid and trained library jobs axed
  • 343 libraries (600-plus including ones handed to volunteers) closed
  • One in five regional museums at least partially closed
  • Libraries’ and museums’ opening hours cut
  • Budgets, education programmes and mobile/housebound/specialist services slashed
  • An escalation in commercialisation and privatisation
  • A 93% increase in the use of volunteers in libraries
  • Income generation become the priority for almost 80% of museums

National libraries museums & galleries demonstration

Called by Unite, PCS and Barnet Unison

Saturday 5 November

Assemble: 12noon at British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB –

March to rally outside National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN