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Local services :: Library
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Library workers in Lambeth, south London, shocked Labour's cuts councillors with a lightning strike on 18 November. The 100% solid unofficial walkout closed all ten of the borough's libraries ahead of that evening's council meeting to discuss the cuts.
The libraries are under attack from a New Labour council. They want to close five of the ten libraries and sell them off to become private gyms. Lambeth's library workers and local residents are up in arms about this and there has been a big campaign including a local demonstration of 600 people.
Lambeth Unison is balloting for strike action, so in order to head this off the council has started ordering library workers to take books off the shelves in an attempt to shut the libraries down before workers can fully respond.
In response, the workers walked out as a reminder to the council of their power. This was followed up by an angry lobby of the council meeting in the evening, demanding that the council keep the libraries open.
Unfortunately, workers reported that the leadership of Unison, their trade union, did not support the action. The Socialist Party urges Unison leaders to follow the example of general union Unite in not repudiating unofficial actions by members defending themselves against attacks.
Library workers and campaigners have pointed out that even within the framework of the cuts that the council wrongly claim it has to make, it is possible to keep the libraries open.
It is plainly untrue that they are forced into this by the government - they are committed to privatisation.An escalating campaign of strike action will be necessary to save the libraries.
The workers will have huge support from service users and the local community, as shown by the reaction to pickets during the strike.
Library workers and campaigners have also discussed the possibility of occupations to save the libraries at public meetings. This could decisively block the council from sending in the asset strippers.
To sustain such an occupation the workers and Unison, with all the resources it has, will have to be at the heart of it.
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Article dated 25 November 2015
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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