Socialist Worker

The battle is on to stop library cuts—now unions must coordinate action

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2505

Marching through Lewisham last Saturday

Marching through Lewisham last Saturday (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The battle to save libraries is hotting up.

Across Britain in the past six years 343 libraries have been axed by local councils pushing Tory cuts. Nearly 8,000 library jobs have been slashed.

But there have been strikes, both unofficial and official, and big local protests in recent months.

Workers struck in Bristol last month, closing all libraries for a day. They oppose the axing of five libraries and changes to their terms and conditions by the Labour-run council.

Library workers in Lewisham, south London, struck last Saturday against plans to close four libraries. Workers voted to elect a strike committee to take the struggle forward.

Up to 350 people joined the Unison union strikers on a march to the Labour council’s offices.

A popular chant warned councillors not to do the Tories’ dirty work.

Around 30 marchers came from nearby Lambeth. Labour has closed two libraries there since 1 April with plans to close a third next month.

Furious local opposition has seen strikes, a ten-day library occupation and a 2,000-strong march.

Councillors claimed the cuts would save money.

Security 

But the council’s bill for private security at the sites is up to three times more than the daily running costs for the libraries.

Labour is mirroring what the Tories are doing in Barnet, north London.

Barnet Tories are cutting library jobs by almost half and some libraries are losing up to 70 percent of their space.

Barnet Unison libraries convenor (pc) Hugh Jordan was on the march in Lewisham.

He told Socialist Worker, “We intend to take industrial action against this.

“Every library service in the country is under attack.

“The loss of one library is a loss to us all. In London we need to have a city-wide day of action for libraries.”

Bringing together the fights can make every local campaign and union branch stronger in the battle to stop library cuts.

Unions should be coordinating action and calling on Labour’s recently elected city mayors and local councillors to stand up to Tory austerity.

If we wait until the next elections to stop the cuts there could be nothing left to save.


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