The outsourcing of library services by Tory-run Bromley Council in London has been a disaster for workers and local residents. But staff are fighting back, setting a powerful example for the whole labour movement.
Library workers in Bromley, represented by Unite the Union, have been out on strike in response to the appalling working conditions being foisted upon them by Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), the company that runs the service on behalf of Tory-controlled Bromley Council.
GLL have made it their mission to offload as much of the service’s running costs onto the backs of their workers as they can. They have done this through means such as deliberately understaffing the libraries and creating a two-tier workforce, offering new joiners worse pay than their predecessors.
But workers have not taken these attacks lightly. They have responded to the actions of GLL with strong militant action. Their ballot for industrial action produced a 96% turnout and a 98% result in favour of indefinite strike action. This blew apart the draconian thresholds imposed by Tory anti-union legislation. And it demonstrates their willingness to fight hard to defend themselves – and the service they work for – from these vultures.
Comrades from Socialist Appeal have visited the picket lines several times to show support and solidarity. The mood on the picket line remains firm and resolute.
As is well known, bullies are often completely unprepared for when their victims strike back. The fact that the workers have responded so courageously to GLL’s provocations has therefore sent the bosses reeling.
Nevertheless, GLL have dug their heels in. This is in part because the Bromley library workers were victorious in a previous dispute last year, and the company would be utterly humiliated if it was to give in again. More importantly, it would expose how rotten GLL’s running of the service is – a fact that would be extremely inconvenient for them, given that outsourcing and privatisation are already extremely unpopular amongst the public.
The fact of the matter is that libraries are an irreplaceable public asset. More than simply offering access to books, they provide a centrepoint for entire communities. They are a place for the elderly to come and socialise; for school students to carry out homework and other assignments; and for working class people to access a whole range of facilities, from reading clubs to help with applying for social security.
As such, they are far too valuable to be sold off for the purposes of enriching some faceless shareholders at the expense of everyone else. Library services all over the country have come under increasing attack as part of the wider Tory austerity agenda. Staff levels have been run down or replaced by volunteers. Book stocks have been slashed. In Essex, for example, a huge campaign is underway against the mass closure of libraries in the county.
By taking a militant approach in their own borough, Bromley library workers have shown that it is possible to take a stand. They have set a powerful example for the wider labour movement: determined class struggle scares the bosses like nothing else.
An incoming Corbyn government, standing on a socialist manifesto, should end these scandals once and for all. Labour – in government nationally or locally – should remove greedy profiteers from our library services, bringing them back under public ownership and placing them under workers’ control.
We call on all workers and youth to support the Bromley library workers and offer them the fullest solidarity in their struggle against GLL.
Bromley Young Labour is very proud to show its solidarity with the ongoing strike by Bromley Library workers. ✊️?
Read our full statement of solidarity here>>>https://t.co/mDR9YwsxnW
— Bromley Young Labour (@BromleyYL) June 12, 2019