Bradford library and museum staff vote to strike over cuts

Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, which is run by Bradford Council. Pic: Tony Johnson
Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, which is run by Bradford Council. Pic: Tony Johnson

Library and museum staff in Bradford have voted to strike in the face of cuts to the city’s services, said the Unite union.

Britain's largest union, which represents about 50 such library and museum staff, said it was expecting to announce strike dates on Wednesday.

It follows members voting by 77 per cent for strike action and 94 per cent for industrial action short of a strike in defence of the library and museum service, which the union says could see funding axed by 65 per cent.

Unite has charted a decade of cuts to libraries and museums by the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council – the latest £950,000 for the year starting April 2019 and a further £1,050,000 earmarked from April 2020.

Bradford Council said that it "remains unclear why Unite have adopted this position", saying that representatives have turned down invitations to share their concerns.

Unite regional officer Mark Martin said: “This ballot result shows just how strongly our members feel about the swingeing cuts that the council is hell-bent on forcing through which could see funding for this service axed by 65 per cent.

“We have had great and heart-warming support from members of the Bradford public and the surrounding areas. We are confident that this support will continue during the forthcoming strikes, which we expect to announce on Wednesday.

“It is not too late for the council to come to the table for constructive negotiations – Unite’s door is open 24/7 for such talks.

“The council’s current hardline attitude is in sharp contrast to its aspiration to be UK City of Culture 2025.

“Libraries and museums are an integral part of the city’s social, cultural and educational fabric – and we believe that they are worth fighting for.”

A Bradford Council spokesman said: “We are disappointed that around 50 Unite members, [which is around 39 per cent of our overall libraries and museums workforce] have decided to vote for strike action. It remains unclear why Unite have adopted this position and this is compounded by the fact that Unite representatives have so far turned down a number of invites to present their concerns regarding our consultation process to date.

“The Council has finished consultation for the 2019/20 changes to the libraries and museums services and they were implemented on 1 September. No libraries were closed during this process.

“We believe that Unite would be better served working with us, offering their views on what can be done to achieve the savings required of the library service in the face of prolonged government cuts and helping to shape the future of our library service, rather than taking this action which will primarily impact library service users and be of no benefit to staff or residents.

“During the course of any strike action, anticipated on dates between October 2019 and January 2020, subject to Unite confirming dates, Bradford Council will take steps to help ensure that library services are still provided to residents.

“We will also continue with plans to commence a programme of engagement and consultation with all stakeholders about the future of the library service in Bradford District.”