Strikes against cuts in Lambeth and Tower Hamlets

Submitted by Matthew on 23 March, 2011 - 2:10

Library workers in Lambeth have voted unanimously, in an indicative ballot, for strike action against job and service cuts.

Unison has 90% union density in Lambeth Libraries; if it goes ahead, strike action would shut all of Lambeth’s libraries.

All “enquiry desk” staff are facing redundancy, and the mobile library service is closing as a result of a proposed Cultural Services restructure. As well as providing advice, enquiries desk staff run reading groups and story times.

Lambeth Libraries get more than 100,000 visits per month, and many local people rely on the services the council plans to axe. Councillors have suggested replacing staff with an “Amazon-style” service or more self-service machines, as well as volunteers.

Lambeth has the highest unemployment figure of any London borough, yet the council plans to add to this by cutting hundreds of jobs.

Local unions and anti-cuts group Lambeth Save Our Services are calling on the Labour council not to cut local services but instead to use reserves and sack high paid consultants and join with the local labour movement in fighting the Tory cuts.

After hearing the result of the libraries indicative ballot, Lambeth’s park rangers, who have also all been sacked in the restructure, voted to join library workers in a ballot and hope to be taking action with them over job and service cuts. Now both park rangers and library staff must wait for the ballot to be approved by Unison’s London Region.

One library worker described why they felt they had to take strike action

“Some people are fighting for their own jobs, people on my grade are standing with our colleagues who are being sacked. But we’re all fighting for more than that. They are destroying the service we care about because the people who design restructures don’t understand how it feels to need a library service. We have to protect it.

“It’s time to stop complaining to each other or worrying and do something. Otherwise we know next year or the year after there won’t be libraries or youth clubs. There probably won’t be hospitals or benefits or pensions. What will be left? Jobs at McDonald’s for the lucky ones and the rest of us… I don’t know.”

To defeat the Tory cuts agenda, action like that which should happen in Lambeth soon must spread wider.

We need strikes across the public sector to protect our jobs and our services. The ruling classes are uniting to fight and therefore so must we.
A Unison activist

Tower Hamlets strikes are a fight against poverty

Whilst Unison members who bear the brunt of the job cuts caused by the Tower Hamlets Council budget await the outcome of their strike ballot, child poverty action groups publish figures showing that Tower Hamlets has the highest levels of child poverty in London and the third highest in the country.

The majority of children (57%) in the Borough live in poverty (defined as the family having less than ÂŁ11 a day to spend after housing costs.)

The huge numbers of redundancies in Tower Hamlets include 55 full time posts from in-house home care, 30 posts from Children’s Centres, over 70 posts from Junior Youth Service after school clubs. This represents many more people than posts, as a large number of them are part-time or job-share.

These cuts, and the collossal loss in services to parents and children in the Borough can only ensure that Tower Hamlets remains at the top of this particular league table.

The full council meeting which finalised the cuts was triumphant in its success. Councillors congratulated themselves and each other, standing and clapping in a meeting from which all but a handful of protesters had been excluded.

The most sickening speeches were from the independent women councillors, supporters of mayor Lutfur Rahman, who reminded us all that this was International Womens’ Day and how they are working for the women in their community. A woman Labour councillor spoke about the great women on whose shoulders they stand!

Since the working class and the poor of Tower Hamlets cannot rely on our elected representatives to respond to their needs, we must do it ourselves.

This is why the two biggest unions in the borough, Unison and NUT, are balloting to strike in defence of jobs, and it is why the people who rely on crucial services should fight to save them.

A Tower Hamlets worker

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