Library workers have gone on strike over the "pressure" put on them by council plans to restructure the service.

After their first strike day yesterday (Tuesday, January 10), Hackney library staff belonging to union Unison will take further industrial action on Thursday (January 12), and January 16 and 20.

Hackney Gazette: Hackney Unison library workers started their picket yesterday at 8.30amHackney Unison library workers started their picket yesterday at 8.30am (Image: Newsquest)

Unison believes Hackney Council's proposed restructure, which it said involves cutting 19 full-time equivalent posts that could cost up to 44 people their jobs, is unsustainable and "not fit-for-purpose".

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Hackney Unison branch chair Brian Debus said: "We don't believe it's safe to work a library service with that reduced number of staff.

Mr Debus said the remaining number of frontline staff would be "inadequate to have a fully staffed service for 36, let alone for 65 hours a week".

Watch our live stream of the picket line at Hackney Central Library.


Mr Debus continued: "We don't think it's fair to the public, we don't think it's fair to our members of staff and we don't think it's tenable to take this forward in the future.

"We had a number of significant incidents that affected staff last year - tailgating, violence that was carried out against security guards, people riding a bike round two different libraries, an incident where a book was torn up in front of members of staff. 

"Staff themselves were very concerned and worried about what was taking place. 

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"This is not the environment members of staff and, for that matter, members of the public, should be put in on a day-to-day basis.

"About 43 per cent of Hackey are members of the library service so it's got a very high duty, particularly amongst those sectors of society who tend to be the most deprived. 

"Opportunities are going to be removed from them if we don't have enough staff to deliver the basics of what members of the public would expect."

Hackney Gazette: The strikers are protesting Hackney Council's proposed library cutsThe strikers are protesting Hackney Council's proposed library cuts (Image: Newsquest)

According to Unison, in the final four weeks of the three-month consultation, the number of staff applying for voluntary redundancy tripled.

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Dalston CLR James Library worker Wendy Edwards said: "[Libraries are] an extension of the community. 

"We run stuff to do with children, to do with adults. Without that provision what is going to happen to the community? 

"In December, we had a winter warmer so we do other things that would be for a community centre. 

"But so much pressure is being put on libraries with [these] new schemes so we feel we have to say something. 

"We are under a lot of pressure and it's also that we may be losing our jobs. We just want to save our libraries and our jobs."

Hackney Gazette: Brian Debus addressed those striking yesterday Brian Debus addressed those striking yesterday (Image: Newsquest)

Michelle Moseley, a regular library user, continued: "I'm passionate about libraries and librarians. We need them. 

"They're an extension of schools - children need libraries and the librarians don't get enough credit. 

"It's not all about books; they're here to talk to you and show you the ropes.

"I've lived here for eight years and I'm going to continue supporting libraries."

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Hackney Green Party councillors Alastair Binnie-Lubbock and Zoë Garbett joined the strikers picketing outside Hackney Central Library and Dalston Library respectively.

Mr Binnie-Lubbock said: "The council in the past cut libraries and we think enough is enough. 

"We don't need a restructure that's going to result in fewer staff to deliver more services. 

"You can't deliver more with less. We're also in a cost-of-living crisis so we don't think it's right to effect these changes. 

"We think the council could think more creatively about how to deliver a better library service that does not involve cutting staff."

Hackney Gazette: Cllr for Hackney Downs Alastair Binnie-Lubbock joined the picket line at Hackney Central LibraryCllr for Hackney Downs Alastair Binnie-Lubbock joined the picket line at Hackney Central Library (Image: Newsquest)

Picket lines will also take place on Thursday, January 12 at Hackney Central and Dalston libraries from 8.30am, followed by a rally outside Hackney Town Hall from 12pm.

Hackney Unison library workers said they expected a bigger turnout on the coming days of strike action.

Cllr Chris Kennedy, cabinet member for culture, heritage and libraries, said: "The decision to take industrial action is disappointing, however we understand that a number of staff are concerned about the proposals, and those staff of course have a right to express those concerns.

"In reality, less than a third of the libraries' workforce has voted for strike action, but their decision will affect the whole workforce.

"We aim to minimise the impact on staff wellbeing during the process, which for many will result in a better-paid frontline role, or a promotion into a management or a specialist role.

"Throughout this process there has been a commitment to keep any compulsory redundancy to a minimum, and there will be no change to minimum staff levels or a reduction of safety across the sites." 

The Hackney Unison library workers' petition is available at: