Union members prepared to strike over Town Hall’s plan to cut library service

A poster protesting against the planned cuts. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Library campaigners are to stage a protest outside a crunch Town Hall meeting that could see politicians approve cuts to Hackney’s library service.

Unison members will urge councillors to rethink plans to scrap up to 19 jobs in an effort to save £250,000.

In a consultative ballot, 72 per cent of members said they were ready to strike to prevent the cuts going ahead.

The union wants the council to hold a “genuine consultation” and in the meantime use its reserves to maintain the service at its current staffing level.

The Town Hall said it needs to make the savings and has limited choices because it is determined to keep all local libraries open.

If rubber-stamped, the proposals will see 76 posts deleted, including weekend assistants and library supervisor roles, with 57 new jobs created, such as digital officers.

The responsibilities of area library managers would be taken on by three managers at a higher grade.

It comes at a time when Hackney Council is considering how it can use libraries as warm spaces for people struggling with heating bills.

Unison believes the council’s plans could lead to the loss of 20 frontline staff, meaning 34 librarians would be working across seven libraries.

The union’s chair Brian Debus fears libraries could have “as few as two to five staff on duty” at any given time.

He said: “This takes no account of holidays, sick leave, training or any emergency. The trade unions and many staff view this as a slippery slope to temporary closures for short periods of time, and ultimately could lead to the closure of a library.

“This will inevitably mean less ability to advise members of the public and the most vulnerable who most depend on the free services that we provide.”

Hackney Council said that “reducing the roles will deliver savings but also contribute towards service development, to ensure the service is sustainable and fit for the future”.