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Posted on 27 April 2012 at 17:47 GMT

Greenwich library workers strike against privatisation, 27.4.12, photo by Paul Mattsson

Greenwich library workers strike against privatisation, 27.4.12, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Day 1: Just the beginning in the fight against library privatisation in Greenwich

The struggle against the privatisation of Greenwich libraries got off to a flying start today with the first day of five days of planned strike action.

Only two libraries were open in Woolwich and Eltham, and they were on a much reduced service. They were staffed by just five workers.

Around 90 library workers in this South London borough took part in the action. There were lively pickets of around 20 in Woolwich and 15 in Eltham.

Rob Williams from the National Shop Stewards Network speaks to Greenwich library workers and supporters, 27.4.12, photo by Paul Mattsson

Rob Williams from the National Shop Stewards Network speaks to Greenwich library workers and supporters, 27.4.12, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

The mood was angry and determined to win. Davey, one of the staff on strike, said: "We are on strike to protest against the the privatisation of the service, the council are only privatising it so that Greenwich Leisure Limited can make the cuts".

Claire, a trade union steward in the department said: "We've been lied to and deceived. Management are letting rumours fester then dumping us at short notice".

She also had a message for those few people that went to work: "shame you've let us down", adding that if the council don't halt their plans they will "strike again".

Onay Kasab speaking to Greenwich library workers and supporters against privatisation, 27.4.12, photo by Paul Mattsson

Onay Kasab speaking to Greenwich library workers and supporters against privatisation, 27.4.12, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Onay Kasab, Socialist Party member and Unite regional official said: "This is a dispute we absolutely can win. Today shows that when we stand together we are strong".

Socialist Party member Sara Hackwood, lead steward for Greenwich library workers in Unite, said (in a personal capacity):

"GLL run their business like some of the worst private companies out there. Mark Sesnan, the managing director of GLL, is on 175,000.

"Across London GLL employ 5,000 staff but of that only 1,400 are on permanent contracts. The people employed on casual contracts sometimes don't get work for three weeks.

"You can't live your life like that. We stand up for all library workers and all library services under threat.

"GLL pay some of their workers under 6 per hour. Some of their service assistants start at 5.40 per hour.

"This is extremely frightening for library staff. There is an alternative. Greenwich want to save 250,000 with this sell-off.

"They could save that by getting rid of the three top managers who've run our service into the ground.

"I'd say to the council: what about your reserves? 130 million in your reserves. This is a betrayal by a Labour council to its workers and to the public and is an absolute disgrace.

"It is important that people are aware that there is a party (TUSC) that stands against the cuts. The support that we've had from TUSC has been absolutely fantastic".

Paul Callanan

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