Library workers across Lambeth, south London, walked out unofficially on Wednesday of last week. They are fighting the Labour council’s plans to close or run down the borough’s ten libraries.
“We’ve had enough,” library worker and Unison union member Beatrice told Socialist Worker.
“Cuts would go through before we would have time to ballot for industrial action—so we walked.
“The council is not listening to us. Not everyone can afford to buy a computer or buy books—these cuts are not fair.”
Library worker Lorna said workers first heard about the cuts through the press. “The decision has been made before the democratic process even kicked in,” she said.
Lambeth’s Labour council, which is driving through a £90 million cuts package, voted the library cuts through at a council meeting the same evening.
It wants to permanently close five libraries, turn some into gyms and reduce the service overall.
Ten thousand people have signed a petition to oppose the planned cuts.
Over 100 protested outside the council meeting and jeered councillors inside for voting for cuts. People chanted, “Resign” and, “Shame on you”.
Unison library rep Tim said, “The walkout is important as management are trying to get the cuts through before opposition can grow.
“But we’re seeing more and more Labour Party wards in the borough vote to oppose the plan.”
Local Lambeth resident Wasim told Socialist Worker, “I applaud the workers
100 percent for walking out—they know how essential the service is.
“Not everyone will be able to afford the private gyms. To me it seems for the council it is all about profit.”
Workers are now demanding a ballot from their Unison union.
More strikes, backed by a campaign of civil disobedience, can force the Labour council to back down.
If the council starts removing books from the threatened libraries campaigners should occupy to defend them.