Workers prepare to strike
by Rob Thomas, Hackney Socialist Party
The fight against Hackney Council’s planned cuts to libraries continued on 23 November, with a second demonstration outside the town hall. The proposed restructure will see fewer staff expected to work longer hours to maintain the same level of service.
This demonstration saw an increased turnout from the one held in October. Local branches of public sector union Unison from Barnet and Camden attended, in solidarity with Hackney library workers.
Unison president Andrea Egan, recently expelled from the Labour Party, Unison vice-president Amerit Rait, and Labour MP Diane Abbot spoke at the rally.
All were critical of Labour councils continuing to impose Tory cuts, epitomised by Hackney Council’s plan to cut a vital service to many lower-income residents. They also criticised the weak response from Labour politicians to the current strike wave.
Labour’s Diane Abbott pledged to stand on the picket lines alongside striking workers. Whether she joins the library workers on the picket lines against her own Labour council in Hackney remains to be seen.
The Socialist Party’s Rob Williams and Hugo Pierre spoke from the National Shop Stewards and Unison national executive, respectively.
Socialist Party member Brian Debus also spoke. Brian, the chair of Hackney Unison, is organising the fightback against the library cuts.
He called on the council to fight back against Tory austerity, build a movement alongside other Labour councils by refusing to impose Tory cuts, and use some of the £163 million useable reserves in Hackney alone.
The Hackney Council chief executive has already used £200,000 of these reserves to fund two new posts to give him more support. At the same time, the libraries are set to suffer from £300,000 of cuts.
Hackney Socialist Party believes it is only fair that reserves be used to maintain all services at their current levels, rather than increase the pay of council managers.
If Hackney council demanded more funding from central government, along with other councils, it would be virtually impossible for this government to do anything about it.
Library workers are due to take part in a formal ballot on strike action in the near future, after a consultative ballot saw 72% vote in favour of strikes, on an 80% turnout.
Hackney Socialist Party will stand shoulder to shoulder with workers to prevent massive cuts to library jobs and services.