Management are cutting library staff as part of a proposed restructure which is being consulted on at the moment.
Plans includes reducing staffing levels by over 25%, downgrading staff,resulting in a pay cut of between 2 and 5 thousand pound per year, cutting events in libraries by two thirds and getting rid of the reference section.
Members have already voted to take industrial action and have passed a motion declaring no confidence in management. Hackney Libraries have a long and proud history of taking on the employer and winning here in hackney. In 2002 Hackney Libraries went on strike every Saturday for a year over Saturday work, and won.
There are already lots of problems in the libraries which have simply been ignored over the years which could if resolved save significant sums of tax payers money.
For example theft of library stock is rife and the security system and self-issue technology is riddled with problems. After its introduction in Homerton Library a couple of years back, dvds had to be withdrawn from the shelves after 800 were stolen in just a month and despite staff raising concerns about the system, the problem is ongoing and endemic in all Hackney Libraries.
The self service system is fundamentally flawed and not compatible with municipal use. Library staff and users find it unreliable and difficult to use and instead of saving time, staff spend longer dealing with customer’s failed attempts to use the inadequate machines.
There is low customers satisfaction with the quality and range of stock which is caused by the council’s reliance on selected suppliers
who regularly send inadequate stock to the boroughs libraries. There are few checks on quality as staff are so stretched due to the high level of vacancies that they are unable to audit what is being delivered.
The restructure is being consulted on at the same time as a public consultation on the Library and Archive Strategy for the next 5 years. Despite asking service users what they want the service to be like, management are pressing ahead with the cuts before the outcome of the public exercise has been published, seemingly pre-empting what library customers will want and making the exercise meaningless. What is the point in asking Hackney library users about the future of the service when management have already made up their minds that opening hours, services and jobs will be cut.
And of course the new CLR James library in Dalston is about to open (thanks to all our members who supported the campaign to save the CLR James name) and it is expected to, in the words of management ‘become a magnet for library users’. The building is bigger and will be open longer, yet management seem to think that it can be run with 25% fewer staff! These cuts to staffing will of course diminish the quality of service on offer, will lead to a decrease in safety for staff and users, and only lead to an exacerbation of the problems which have left to fester for so many years.
The new restructure will also see serious changes to Library workers terms and conditions of employment. Paid tea breaks have always been the custom and practice in the service. Staff work long hours, constantly in the public view and so tea breaks are a necessary respite. The new restructure will see a loss of all but the mandatory unpaid breaks. This loss will result in workers working significantly longer and as such is a pay cut and must be opposed.
So what can members do to support the libraries and our sisters and brothers who work in them?
Well you can spread the word, libraries are loved by the public and we have already had massive support from the local community and some press coverage : Press Cutting Libraries Restructure and http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/cutswatch/view/report/27009
Sign the petition to save the library service by clicking this link: http://www.PetitionOnline.com/dontcut/petition.html
Print off one of the leaflets from here: Public Libraries Leaflet and fill it in and send it to the mayor or cabinet members Councillor McShane. Or if you would prefer to write your own message and e-mail them directly (from a non-work e-mail address) on firstname.lastname@example.org or Jonathon.email@example.com
It is important that members show solidarity with their colleagues in libraries because over the next few years we will all be hoping for that support ourselves when we have to go through the mire that is a hackney restructure!