Unions accuse GLL of closing library service

Unison library demoLambeth librarians on strike next week (8 February) will be joined by colleagues in Greenwich who are taking action again their employer GLL – the organisation that Lambeth has chosen to turn three of its 10 libraries into gyms.

Greenwich members of the Unite union are striking over GLL’s plans to shut down the mobile library service in the borough.

Lambeth’s Unison union said local residents were planning to occupy libraries threatened with closure, including Waterloo, Carnegie, Tate South Lambeth and Minet as well as Upper Norwood which would be run with no paid staff under Lambeth Council’s proposals.

Ruth Cashman of Lambeth Unison said: “We are striking to protect our library network in Lambeth. We will keep fighting with the communities we serve to defend all ten Lambeth libraries”.

A Unison news release quoted a Greenwich library staff member who, it said, did not want to be named for fear of reprisals: “Greenwich Council and GLL are snatching books from the hands of children. The mobile library issues 22,000 books a year to children – that is what is being cut. When the council handed the libraries over to GLL, they said it was to protect libraries from closure. They lied.

“In Greenwich, it’s not councillors defending libraries – it’s us.”

Unison said that since GLL took over library services in Greenwich staff had been on strike against changes to terms and conditions.

It said threequarters of GLL’s staff were on zero-hour contracts and it 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. GLL runs Lambeth’s leisure facilities, including Brixton Rec.


  1. Sensational article Alan, and I am sure the errors therein are not your fault and come direct from the Unison and Unite propaganda machine.

    Just to be clear. 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).
    We believe in the future of Libraries, we want to protect and improve them and extend opening hours and improve accessibility.

    Here are a few facts:
    GLL has nothing to do with the decision as to whether or not there will be a mobile library service in Greenwich. This is a Council decision and they are currently consulting the public on the future of that service (consultation ends mid March).
    Unite has only had one day of strike action in Greenwich since we took over libraries three years ago (it was supposed to be two days, but when they met GLL management on day one, it was clear that there was no real issue in dispute (the concern was mainly about the speed of filling vacant posts) and thus they went back to work).
    Three quarters of GLL staff are not on zero hours contracts, although many of our staff such as coaches and exercise and swim teachers do work sessional hours.
    Following a successful negotiation with Lambeth Council, I am pleased to report that all GLL staff in the borough will be paid at least the London Living Wage from 1st April.


    • GLL are about to take over the library provision in Lincolnshire and this comment was left on a blog about by a Unite rep. There must be something rotten with GLL for them to keep attracting all this opprobrium. Will Lincolnshire librarians end up on different staffing contracts? Will the mobile library service be cut and more volunteers put in place? GLL sound like staff in Lincolnshire libraries will be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

      “The most important thing to remember about GLL ‘Better’ is that Business comes first! That’s why 2/3rds of Leisure Staff are on zero hour contracts. They currently have started paying the Living Wage (in London) but not the London Living wage. So at their new flash Centre in Greenwich you have staff working below the LLW. In the Library service you have staff on three different sets of terms and Conditions. Royal Borough of Greenwich (which UNITE went on strike for before the transfer and won personal to post holder lifetime protection), GLL Libraries and now GLL conjoined services. The differences are huge varying from staff on RBG conditions getting leave plus Bank Holidays and enhancements for out of hours working and Saturday working , an hours lunch and short tea breaks and a 35 HR week to GLL conjoined services getting half hour lunch breaks, no breaks during the day, no enhancements, 40 HR week and bank holidays rolled in with their leave. Unite also fought off getting staff into uniform but unfortunately anyone employed after 6/15 has to wear it and a name badge whereas staff in post before then can wear a dress code (written by UNITE) and do not have to display their name just their job title.
      We went on strike in 2014 to fight for recruitment and to stop the overuse of casual staff and we won. We have regular recruitment to permanent posts and casuals are used for emergencies and events. We have fought off the use of Volunteers and they are not used in Greenwich Libraries.
      We are currently balloting our members for action in February to protect our Mobile Library service as we see this as the beginning of an attack on all the smaller libraries which are community hubs and very well used. Our Mobile serves the children of the Borough in schools that aren’t near static libraries and also has regular stops. We have been asking for years to visit our local hospitals children’s ward and change the regular stops to more isolated estates but to no avail. That’s why we are planning action.
      GLL are a nasty private company and rely on bullying high level Managers on high wages to demoralise the staff to the extent that they leave and terms and conditions can be ground down to their level. They are not a Social Enterprise in the correct form. They put business before communities and in the public sector this can never be right.
      We wish you solidarity for the future and would offer one piece of advice. Show them your strength now and don’t leave it too late before taking action. TUPE negotiations are important but you cannot rely on them to protect your, pay, conditions and staffing levels. The lesson we have learnt is that striking and striking early wins.

Comments are closed.