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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 February 2020

Huge victory for Bromley library workers after 241 days on indefinite strike!

Bromley library workers protesting outside GLL tennis centre in Islington, supported by the NSSN and members of the Socialist Party, 21st August 2019, photo Isai Priya

Bromley library workers protesting outside GLL tennis centre in Islington, supported by the NSSN and members of the Socialist Party, 21st August 2019, photo Isai Priya

South East London Socialist Party members

Library workers in Bromley, south London have won a huge victory after eight months of continuous, indefinite strike action which began on 6 June 2019.

The settlement includes new posts, no compulsory redundancies and backdated pay awards for those who had been underpaid. The final strike meeting on 30 January agreed that a return to work would take place on 3 February.

The strike originally began in protest at the failure of Greenwich Leisure Limited to fill vacant posts. This was leading to huge strains on the service. Unite the Union also knew that a restructure was coming - this was why the posts were not being filled.

Advantage

Rather than wait for the restructure to be imposed, the union took the bold step of calling for an indefinite strike before the employer formally made its proposals. This gave the union a huge advantage.

A restructure in the workplace, including where job cuts are imposed, can be a very quick process. The unions have legal time limits attached to industrial action ballots. By the time strike action can begin, an employer will often 'persuade' workers to take voluntary redundancy - with one arm held behind their back.

Bosses have no problem telling workers that unless they take a voluntary redundancy settlement with a small enhancement, then they will face compulsory redundancy with a smaller severance package.

Unsurprisingly, workers often feel they have no choice but to take the offer. Time after time this will either scupper a campaign or be used as an excuse by some union leaders not to take action.

For these reasons, the early strike notice in this campaign meant that the employers did not have this option. Instead of being isolated and vulnerable to threats, workers were out on strike and anything that the employer had to say needed to go via the union.

Jobs threat

Just as the union predicted, half way through the strike the employers proposed a new structure slashing over 30 jobs. The strike and the campaign that had been built in support of the workers allowed the union to negotiate from a position of strength.

In addition to the strike action, the union campaigned to hit Greenwich Leisure where it hurt - its brand image. This had a huge impact. Press reports over the last few weeks have stated that membership in the company's leisure centres has dropped drastically.

Even before the current strike, Unite had warned at the time that the contract was given to Greenwich Leisure in 2017 that the company was in financial trouble, unable to compete against budget gyms. The Tories in control of Bromley council chose to ignore the warnings from the union.

This campaign reiterates the position of Unite - that so-called social enterprise organisations are not a soft option when it comes to privatisation. When it comes to the treatment of workers there is no difference. This is why the campaign exposing the brand was so effective - zero-hour contracts, staff cuts, poor health and safety standards and highly paid senior managers carrying out the cuts for the Tories.

There are huge lessons to be learnt and several related subjects which will require articles of their own. For now, we should rightly celebrate this excellent victory and pay tribute to strike leader Kathy Smith and the magnificent Bromley Library strikers.


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In The Socialist 5 February 2020:


News

6.5 million working poor: Fight to end low pay

Labour leadership contest and public ownership

Coronavirus exposes capitalism's weaknesses in healthcare and economy

Record dissatisfaction with democracy: capitalism's dead end

Refuges turn away 64% of women - set no-cuts budgets now!

Grenfell watch: Unions challenge 'mockery of justice'

Them & Us


Rail

Nationalise the railways: For an integrated public transport system

Expensive, overcrowded and unreliable: Renationalise the railways!

Cancel the franchise, not our trains

Will the North get investment and transport infrastructure?


What we think

'Post-Brexit' era of crisis ahead


Workplace news

Huge victory for Bromley library workers after 241 days on indefinite strike!

14 more days of university strikes over pensions, pay and conditions

500 BBC journalists' jobs under threat

Newham council tax workers' pay victory

No to academisation of east London schools!

Ealing tax office workers strike against closure


NHS

Outrageous waiting times will put lives at risk

NHS: Save stroke beds in Coventry and Warwickshire


International

Syria: Assad regime consolidates power after brutal counterrevolution

Israel/Palestine: Trump 'peace plan' promises further conflict


Campaigns

Socialist Party calls anti-austerity protest on Budget Day

Sadiq Khan "out-Tories" himself to defend tech firms' tax bonanza

Socialist Sellers

Reading Labour council: Stop privatising our leisure services

The rich fund the Tories and Blairites, so help fund the working-class fightback

Support the working-class press in 2020

Defend and fight for warm, safe housing for Samira and everyone

Alternative Burns Night success


Readers' opinion

Liverpool council: "No more cuts" - Is Joe Anderson serious?

Socialist Inbox


 

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Related links:

Bromley:

triangleBromley Libraries 'restructure' in middle of pandemic!

triangleLondon NSSN meeting

triangleBromley libraries strikers proved right

triangleBromley strikers - fighting on to save our libraries

triangleBromley library workers strike against running down

Library:

triangleKeep the National Poetry Library free

triangleBradford library and museum strikers enter third round of strike action

triangleWorcester: Building on our successful library campaign

triangleWorcester libraries campaign victory

Strike:

triangleLondon bus drivers begin strike ballot over remote sign-on dispute

triangleTate workers on indefinite strike hold march and rally

triangleStrike wave marks new stage in revival of Iranian workers' movement

Workers:

triangleNHS workers: "We deserve a fair wage" - 15% now!

triangleNational Shop Stewards Network lobbying for a lead from the TUC

Union:

triangleTUSC to stand in elections again against pro-austerity politicians

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