Greenwich libraries dispute – GLL chief Mark Sesnan responds
Greenwich Council’s libraries were transferred to leisure provider GLL yesterday, but the dispute over the move continues. Strike action yesterday and today was cancelled by the Unite union after a legal threat from GLL, although Unite says 11 out of the borough’s 13 libraries were closed during the last two days of their management by the council.
Now Unite is now planning a protest march from the Eltham Centre to Woolwich on Saturday (5 May, 11.30am) and is talking to lawyers about the legality of the transfer. Last week, GLL’s managing director Mark Sesnan posted his side of the story, now he responds to some of the comments his piece raised.
Not being an avid reader of 853 (or any other Blogs actually – sorry Darryl!), I was not aware that your commenters were waiting with baited breath for me to respond. Now I know, I am of course happy to. However I must state that it is disappointing that virtually none of the blogs discuss what is the real key issue here, the Library service itself. It would be good to think that people were interested
in the future of Libraries as well as the staff. It would also be good if there was a realistic discussion
about what the actual options for public services are in the climate of massive funding cuts.
Anyway, let the nasty oppressive GLL respond to the questions:
GLL’s definition of ‘worker controlled’ and the definition of a ‘staff owned cooperative’.
The only people who have a ‘share’ in the charitable IPS are staff and it is one person one share one vote (I only have one share the same as any front line member of staff). The staff elect the Board (which is majority staff), the Board runs the business. We are a member of Coops UK and we were set up by the Greenwich Coops Development Agency (GCDA).
All GLL employment policies are approved by the staff led Board, but rates of pay are recommended by an independent remuneration committee.
Crucially, if the staff are not happy with any GLL policy they can unseat the board members or overrule any decision at an Extraordinary general meeting.
GLL’s use of Casual Staff
The leisure centre business is highly seasonable and employs a wide range of staff in many different jobs. This includes dance instructors who work only one or two hours a week, students who work evenings and weekends, sports coaches, bar staff, sales staff etc. Typically, more than half the staff will not be on full time contracts and usually this is because it suits them, as well as us.
If casual staff want to go full time with us, then they can apply for these jobs as they come up. Most of our full time staff come through this route, often though, staff prefer to be in charge of their own time and stay casual.
Diana Edmonds MBE
Diana is a respected and accomplished Library Manager, she was ‘head hunted’ by GLL. She turned Haringey’s public Library service from being one of London’s weakest, to being one of London’s best. She no longer has connections with Tribal (not for more than 10 years). I am not prepared to disclose her actual salary – out of politeness, but it is not outrageous.
GLL will be a £120m business in 2012 and I will earn approximately £155,000. This salary was set by the independent remunerations committee after the committee had commissioned research into the ‘market rates’.
Ironically, my salary is very similar to Len McCluskey’s salary – Onay Kasab’s boss at Unite. Another interesting factoid is that I am a lifetime Unite member – although I have never seen any sign they are interested in my opinion!
The Use of anti union legislation to maintain public service
I very much regret that Unite have decided that closing libraries, particularly in the exam season, promotes their cause. I also do not like hearing that staff who did attend for work in Woolwich on Saturday felt ‘intimidated’.
Unite may not like the Law, but the law lays out when it is legal to strike and when it is not, all GLL did was point out to them that they have not followed the necessary steps to enable them to strike on our watch.
I hope the Union and the staff will use this breathing space to reconsider the benefit of closing the service and losing pay.
It was alleged that I got ‘cold feet’ when I was invited to a public meeting in Cooperatives week recently. It is true that I was asked not to attend at the last minute as the organisers did not wish the picket to disrupt what was supposed to be a celebration of Cooperatives in the Borough – I was quite happy to attend.
As regards a future public debate, if the topic is genuinely about the future of the Library service with a range of views represented, and there was no picketing, then I would be happy to take part.
I hope this answers most of the points raised.
The service has now transferred to GLL under contract for the next 15 years. I look forward to working with the Users and Staff to see how we can develop a first class service despite the adverse budgetary conditions.
Your views, as ever, are welcome in the comments box below.