Saturday, 2 July 2016

Library Workers Strike 5th July

Library workers are striking to raise awareness of the continuing threat that libraries of Lewisham face and the people who depend upon them – unless the council reverses its £1m cuts to library services.

The cut will mean Torridon Road Library, Forest Hill Library, Catford Library and Manor House Libraries close, bringing the number of libraries down to three from 12 in 2010.

With political parties in turmoil, it is crucial that people have access to a public institution that represents their personal histories, a breadth of cultures and the idea of shared understanding within a community. For this reason too, it is also vital that people stand up together to protect their jobs and the services which require them.

Since strike action in May when library workers, residents and campaigners joined forces to form a 500-strong march to Catford Civic Suite, the Council has fallen short of its timetabled response to workers and left them with a still uncertain future. Whilst workers face uncertainty, so too do libraries, as unelected council officers promote bids from private interests in the form of an artist’s studio company (V22) and a community interest company which has not yet been properly formed.

In Lewisham Life magazine, residents were told Library cuts would save them money, but officers have agreed the maintenance costs of library buildings would be covered by the council. Council officers have not delivered what councillors voted for but are plowing ahead, all against the will of the public who said no to more library cuts and more volunteer libraries.

Tuesday's strike will be in solidarity with Greenwich library workers who are striking to save their mobile library. We stand in solidarity with teachers who will hold a national strike on the same day. The strike will help to build momentum for the vital lobby of Lewisham council on 13th July.

For more information about the Council's apology for a plan:

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Restore Our Library Service

Lewisham's libraries are a well loved and much used service, especially depended on by children.

It is upsetting then, that our libraries have been put through the wringer, and to show for it, issue numbers have fallen more than almost anywhere else in the country in the last five years. Lewisham Council has executed on its misbeggoten decision to cut £1 million from the budget, making most staff redundant whilst outsourcing operations to social enterprises and charities on decades long leases and contracts. And disgustingly, council advances this as an innovative 'opportunity'. It has also been pushing the money under the rug, as outsourced groups who run into cash flow problems are given large council grants, and this is now par for the course.

The Council removed staff from 4 of our libraries in 2016:

Catford, Forest Hill, Manor House and Torridon Road.

Despite the massive public opposition and the first council staff strikes here in decades, they pushed the changes through. This is not forgotten or over. This must be rectified.

Unison was right to believe that the implementation of the scheme would mean:

  • Professional staff will not be available in these libraries
  • Opening times will be reduced
  • If there are not enough volunteers, then libraries will close
  • Library usage and services to the community will be reduced
  • Vulnerable users won’t be able to access library services

They can no longer rightly be called libraries but pale imitations, community centres, thinly veiled property development operations that make a show of meeting a few basic library service functions and relying on volunteers. They stretch the remaining council staff dangerously thin, perhaps popping in to Pepys library once a week to mourn the chaos. Having made these idiotic redundancies so drastically management have had to take on agency staff. They've even trained up at cost new staff, who have handed in their resignation finding the conditions intolerable.

It has left us left three "hub" libraries still very basically council staffed, Lewisham, Deptford Lounge and Downham. Catford often has nobody but the security guards that work in the building, you can't print and can never expect to be able to print, and it is unsafe and unreliable.

In a borough this size it no longer meets our statutory right to a local, accessible, convenient library service.

These hub libraries are under threat of more unsubtle restructures by Bullock and head of the service Anthonio 'they changed my title so I'd have no chance of being sued' Rizzo. We campaign by all our legitimate means, from our right to public assembly, to arguing in surgeries and consultations, to looking into the published books of tender candidates to see what the council turns a blind eye to.

We have perhaps decreased the damange and slowed it down, but council generally has its head in the sand, and the tory government that goes without saying.

In this misinformation, privatisation age libraries are for their users desperately important.

Save Lewisham Libraries urges you to FIGHT FOR LIBRARIES!

Please sign our petition, come to our meetings and developing protests and get involved.