Our branch first started working with the Organising Department when the council decided to sell-off our library services to Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL). Our record of standing up for ourselves, taking action and winning means the employer now has to think twice before taking us on.
In 2012 we won our first dispute, a strike to secure guaranteed terms and conditions for workers who had transferred. I remember thinking “we’ve got nothing to lose here by taking them on.” In 2014 we went on strike again when we were faced with the race to the bottom that comes with outsourcing. Posts weren’t being filled, the employer was relying on zero hour contacts and there was no prospect of a pay rise.
We’ve had three strikes in all - 2012, 2014 and 2016 – and we’ve won every time. We got the posts filled, we protected our administration staff and we got the employer to always follow the Local Government Pay Award. Now we’ve got strong density across the sites and a fantastic team of shop stewards.
On every occasion we’ve had the support of the Organisers who were able to be where we needed to go but couldn’t. Like telling the users of the libraries what was happening to their services or getting into the council to build links with union members there.
Apart from during our disputes we’d never closed a library until Covid struck, but the hard work we’d put in to building for those disputes meant we could keep the branch going - and growing. During the last strike we had members’ and stewards’ WhatsApp groups, which we resurrected to keep everyone in contact. We’ve also used Zoom to make sure the stewards have met every week without fail since last March.
It means we’ve been able to share and discuss risk assessments, support our administrator members who are still keeping the services going behind the scenes, and we’ve even managed to recruit a fantastic new steward out of it.
I’m supporting Sharon Graham to be our next General Secretary because I’ve seen the difference real organising makes. New ideas like the Leverage Campaigns, and the sheer work ethic that goes in to them, have been amazing to see. Sharon knows that our union’s strength rests on our ability to support and protect our shop stewards. Knowing that our union’s strategy is built on that support will make all the difference to branches like ours.