STAFF at Bradford Council’s libraries and museums held protests at 14 of its premises on Thursday in a continuing dispute about cuts to the service.
The Unite union says council bosses are being ‘obdurate and foot dragging’ in talks to resolve the dispute over the cuts.
It said more than 70 of its library and museums’ members were taking part in four more days of targeted strike action.
Staff have already taken five days of strike action.
The industrial action comes as Bradford Council launched a consultation, which closes on Friday, December 20, on the future of the library service – Unite is urging the public to make its views known if they want to safeguard the service for future generations.
Speaking after a protest at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Lauren Padgett, workplace representative for Unite, said: “It’s really important that we’ve all come out today to show we mean business. We are saying no cuts to culture for Bradford museums and galleries.
“The council has been pushing ahead on the proposed cuts even though staff have formally expressed their concerns. Unions have asked that they amend what’s happening and negotiate. They’re not willing to do that. They want to push ahead with what they want.
“There’s been ample opportunity for the council to speak to the union about it. Unite the Union has welcomed discussions with the council.
“What’s been proposed is that there’s going to be cuts that amount to £260,000 this year and next financial year the cuts are going to be half a million pounds.
“The libraries are concerned about what’s happening or what’s proposed to happen. The knock-on effect means reduced access for library services for parents with young children. The types of library users are very varied.
“For a lot of them it’s a lifeline in terms of getting even internet access. Reading as well to encourage children to read and to have access to a wide range of books so they can learn lots of different things.
“The council say that the cuts are due to cuts that have been in effect made by central government but it’s up to Bradford Council. They set their own budget so it’s ultimately a council decision.”
Unite regional officer Mark Martin said: “We met with council officers on Friday, November 8, and again asked for a pause in the process to put our alternative proposals to them. In return, we would suspend our industrial action.
“However, the council officers refused to pause the implementation of the staffing changes and we were, therefore, left with no option but to continue with our industrial action. We think the council bosses are foot dragging and being obdurate over our attempts to resolve this dispute.
“Unite is continuing to press the elected councillors to think again regarding these damaging cuts and will be meeting with Unite-supported councillors next week to make our case directly to them.
“Meanwhile, our Unite Community members will be encouraging members of the public and Unite members to make representations to the council consultation document."
“There will be pickets and demonstrations at the selected workplaces.”
This week Unite held 24-hour stoppages on Monday at Keighley Library, on Tuesday at Shipley Library and on Wednesday at Baildon Library. On Thursday all 14 sites were hit by strike action with pickets and demonstrations.
A five-day stoppage is scheduled for December 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.