Greenwich libraries staff to strike over GLL takeover

I’ve not many details on this, but Unite union staff working at Greenwich Council’s libraries are to strike for five days in protest at the council’s decision to hand over the running of its libraries to GLL.

The switch to GLL management is due to take place from Monday 30 April, but union representatives fear cuts to workers’ pay and conditions, and are also angry about the lack of consultation over the move.

Strikes will take place on Friday 27th April, Saturday 28th April, Monday 30th April, Tuesday 1st May, and Friday 11th May.

The process was temporarily halted earlier this year when Unite threatened legal action over links between then-leisure cabinet member John Fahy and GLL managing director Mark Sesnan, who are both directors of a company called Meridian Link, which develops education and sports opportunities in Ghana.

GLL was formed in the 1990s from Greenwich Council’s old leisure department, and the two bodies retain close links. Mr Sesnan has been a guest at council functions, including last year’s lavish mayoral inauguration ceremony at the Old Royal Naval College.

Monday update: The strike affects library staff, not leisure centre staff as previously thought (had relied on third-hand info for Saturday night’s post). I’ll place an email Unite’s Onay Kasab to his members in the comments section.


  1. GLL held a “public consultation” meeting about this at Eltham Library. It was on a Friday evening at 1800hrs – a time practically guaranteed to ensure a low turn out . It was, to say the least, farcical. The GLL representative didnt even introduce himself and simply launched into his spiel, until people in the audience stopped him and made him identify himself. Greenwich Council and GLL had actually already made up their minds what was happening and in fact had already started various processes. Someone spoke up along the lines of “so this isn’t a consultation in any way then, its a ‘this is what we are going to do and you’re stuck with it’ meeting.

  2. GLL are patently unfit to run public services. Their management refuse to answer my emails about disability access, and attempt to deflect the issues onto their front line staff. I will be wholeheartedly supporting this strike.

  3. So a bunch of LEISURE staff who already work for GLL are planning to strike and lose wages because some LIBRARY staff may be joining them? Sometimes I just do not understand unions and their members.

    I could just about understand fellow council staff joining ‘in solidarity’ with their comrades who are leaving the public sector, but why existing GLL staff would strike at their own company’s expansion is beyond me.

  4. As I suspected, the strike *doesn’t* affect leisure centres – had relied on third-hand info for Saturday’s post.

    Here’s an email Onay Kasab sent to his members on Friday:

    Today, at 12 noon, a Unite negotiating team consisting of myself as the Regional Officer, Sara Kasab the Lead Library Steward and Danny Hoggan Greenwwich Unite Branch Secretary elect, met with the GLL and the Council. Two meetings took place. The first was a TUPE meeting where the employer puts forward the terms of the transfer. While making our opposition to the transfer clear, we have nevertheless attended these meetings primarily to know what GLL is planning. At the last meeting, we asked for details of current GLL conditions and a full list of all your terms that would transfer from your local conditions of service. These are crucial. They may deny it now, but both GLL and the council made public announcements that a harmonisation process would take place. As we have pointed out, GLL terms and conditions are poorer than Council conditions. They even offered a two year protection period before this happened – something which again GLL deny despite the Council announcing it in public. GLL and the Council refused to provide this vital information

    Even worse and despite the previous assurances that your terms and conditions would all transfer over, both employers started to backtrack. For instance they made clear that the job evaluation system used to grade your jobs would not transfer over. In addition, they said that they would decide what was contractual and that only these would transfer over. Then they took a third position that only conditions linked to a monetary benefit would transfer over.

    By this stage, and with some assistance from your Unite negotiators, both employers were contradicting themselves and in fact began to make the rules up as they went along. They ended the meeting by saying that TUPE negotiations had now exhausted. We made clear that they had not and I am now taking legal advice on the matter.

    We then issued further notice to the employer that strike action would begin on Friday 27th April.

    At 2pm, we met the employers again. None of the previous Council or GLL representatives were at this meeting, which was attended by Deputy Council Leader Peter Brooks and the Head of HR. We made clear our determination to win this dispute but at the same time urged them to reconsider. They did agree to take the matter back to Cabinet. But just as importantly, they agreed that the previous negotiators were wrong and that all current terms and conditions, local and national must transfer over. This concession would not have been won without the threat of strike action.

    While agreeing to take the matter back to Cabinet members, they have not at thss stage agreed to halt the transfer. The threat of cuts to pay and conditions through harmonisation remains.Therefore, the strike action is on.

    A campaign programme is currently being prepared. But I can confirm that until further notice, Library members are being asked to take strike action on the following days:

    27th, 28th, 30th April, 1st and 11th May.

    The campaign programme will include a number of activities to compliment the strike action. We remain even more determined, in light of the performance from GLL today to do all we can to stop this transfer. We have made clear to the employer that we are prepared to continue talking right up to the last minute.

    Your continued support will be vital in this crucial campaign to protect pay, terms and conditions.

  5. 6.00pm on a Friday night – no wonder no one was there! If the service was open when customers might find it useful then they would have been.
    It sounds like a massive inconvenience to turn up on a Friday tea time to talk about your future jobs / service etc.

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