GLL chief replies to union accusations

Striking library workers demonstrated outside the council meeting
Striking library workers demonstrate outside a Lambeth council meeting

Mark Sesnan, managing director of GLL, the organisation that runs Lambeth council’s leisure services and is set to turn three of its libraries into gyms, has told Brixton Blog that: “We believe in the future of libraries. We want to protect and improve them and extend opening hours and improve accessibility”.

He was responding to charges against GLL levelled by members of unions representing staff in Lambeth and Greenwich who will be on strike this week (8 February) over Lambeth council’s plans and other issues in Greenwich.

Sesnam said that GLL is “a staff-led charitable social enterprise that prides itself on delivering high quality affordable local leisure and library services in both Greenwich and Lambeth and elsewhere”.

He said GLL had “nothing to do” with a decision on the future of the mobile library service in Greenwich. “This is a council decision and they are currently consulting the public on the future of that service,” he said, adding that the consultation is not due to end until the middle of next month.

Onay Kasab of the trade union Unite, said that Greenwich council was “using smoke and mirrors” in the decision on the future of its mobile library service.

He said a review of the service had been conducted by two GLL employees and was passed to the council which then produced a report, based on the review, recommending closure.

Kasab also disputed an assertion by Sesnan that a planned two-day strike by library staff in Greenwich had lasted only one day and was called off after it became clear “there was no real issue in dispute”.

Kasab said there had been two days of strike action and that the dispute was over the equivalent of 14 full-time posts not being filled. It was only called off, he said, after GLL agreed to discuss filling the vacancies.

Sesnan also told Brixton Blog that the unions’ charge that threequarters of GLL staff are on zero hours contracts is not true, adding: “many of our staff, such as coaches and exercise and swim teachers, do work sessional hours”.

He denied that that the company had refused to pay the London living wage of £9.40 an hour to staff working for the leisure side of its business.

“Following a successful negotiation with Lambeth council,” he said. “I am pleased to report that all GLL staff in the borough will be paid at least the London Living Wage from 1 April.

Kasab said that “sessional” staff, predominantly in the leisure side of GLL, had no guaranteed hours and could be without work for week or months. “These are zero hour contracts,” he said.

Mark Sesnan was instrumental in moving Greenwich council’s leisure centre services to a staff-led, not-for-profit social enterprise trust in 1993, after having worked at a senior level in local government.

He is co-chair of Social Enterprise London and a board member of Social Enterprise UK.

GLL has more than 5,000 employees and a turnover of over £120 million. It operates 115 leisure centres for 30 “partners”.