DUDLEY: Labour demands library staff are paid fair wage
Copyright Dudley Libraries.
Library staff deserve a fair wage according to one councillor, as the financial position of a contract into library services has come into question.
Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), which has been running leisure and library services since 1993, currently manages libraries in Wandsworth, Lincolnshire, and Greenwich.
In 2017, the day-to-day management of all of the borough’s 13 libraries, four library links, and Dudley Archives and Local History Service, were transferred to GLL – an employee-led mutual, which describes itself as “a charitable social enterprise for all the community”.
The 140 members of staff who work within the council’s libraries and archives services were also transferred to GLL.
But unions in Dudley are worried that staff are being treated unfairly, citing strike action by staff at Bromley library, south east London, over a proposed change to working hours so that staff, instead of working one late night every two weeks, will work four late nights every two weeks.
In a full council meeting on October 11, Cllr Adam Aston, (Labs, Upper Gornal and Woodsetton), and shadow cabinet member for housing and communities has spoken out for better pay.
He said: “Sadly, since being handed our libraries, it has become abundantly clear that Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) has adopted a race to the bottom in terms of pay and terms and conditions.
“Some library staff are paid less than any other worker within the authority. In fact, the council’s pay scales don’t extend low enough. They’re 12% worse off than they would have been. They receive less than the national living wage, no sick pay for the first day of sickness and GLL continue an obsession with zero errors and minimum hours contracts.
“I’m supporting the call for the real living wage for Dudley’s library staff. Personally, I’d like to see Dudley’s library service run once again by the Council when the current contract ends”.
But Cllr Laura Taylor-Childs (Cons, Norton) and cabinet member for housing and community services said that it was a Labour-run council that previously outsourced library services.
“I think it’s important just to point out that the change over to GLL was actually under a Labour administration. So all of this obviously would have been up for consideration at that point.
“I would happily have ongoing conversations with the shadow cabinet member, about what our arrangements currently are with GLL.”
But Cllr Taylor-Childs added she would give “no commitment” to repatriate library services back to the council, saying it would be “incredibly irresponsible” to give a stance on the matter.
Cllr Aston hit back saying the outsourcing of library was needed to avoid library closures in the face of £100m worth of cuts to Dudley council.
He also asked if the council would be prepared to help libraries across Dudley should GLL “fall”, citing an audit report which stated that the pandemic has had a “detrimental impact” on the trading results of GLL, and that the group may fall into “material uncertainty”.
Cllr Taylor-Childs replied saying that while services under a Labour-led council were “salami sliced” through “irresponsible management” of council finances, she would have discussions around the possibility of bringing library services back in house if needed.
At the time, the Labour-led council said the mutual will give library services “greater freedom to introduce new ways to generate income”, and reinvested into services to train staff, and expand and update facilities available.
Dudley council paid GLL £3,988m to deliver the first year of its contract, before dropping to £3,769m a year for the remainder of its contract – aimed at making ‘financial savings’ across the board without impacting on day-to-day services.
Theresa Kelly, branch secretary at UNISON Dudley, said “Greenwich Leisure Limited make a mockery of the term ‘social enterprise’. Its flawed business model is based on zero-hours contracts and job cuts.
“The public services it pledged to maintain, such as leisure centres and libraries across the country, are being eroded.
“It’s nothing short of scandalous that an organisation which touts its progressive credentials offers wage levels so low that staff would struggle to make ends meet”.
A spokesperson for GLL commented: “Since taking on the management of Dudley Libraries, GLL has made a number of improvements to working practices including; staff rotas and structures and the removal of lone working in libraries – a practice that we inherited. We have never employed staff on Zero Hours contracts within our libraries, although we do offer flexible working, to help cover instances of staff sickness or annual leave.
“We are aware that some staff have concerns around the level of their recent pay rise and we are currently addressing these.
“We are committed to paying the Real Living Wage across all our facilities and are working with local staff to reach this point as soon as possible.
Words: Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter
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