Date Thursday 29 March 2007
UNISON seeks interdict to keep Glasgow's libraries public
Days before the proposed transfer of Glasgow city council's culture
and leisure services to a charitable trust, the union that represents
the staff that would be hived off to a new employer is going to
court to seek a judicial review of that decision and an interim
interdict to prevent it going ahead.
Mike Kirby, Convenor of UNISON's Glasgow City branch said "We believe
the Council's proposals clearly breach the 1887 Public Libraries
Act which says that there is a duty on the local council to manage
the public libraries, museums and art galleries provided under this
legislation. That statutory duty cannot lawfully be hived off to
a charitable trust as Glasgow propose to do.
"It is not just us that is saying this, but the Scottish Executive
- who propose in the new Cultural Bill to change this legislation
precisely because it prevents this type of transfer."
The union has been publicly campaigning against the proposals.
It says that members are being transferred from a democratically
accountable public service to an uncertain future in a charitable
organisation established primarily as a tax avoidance measure.
Experience indicates that this is rarely a sound basis for effective
service delivery or good employment practice.
Mike Kirby said "This type of transfer is widely acknowledged
as a way of avoiding tax, and this is the only possible advantage.
To discard hundreds of hard-working staff, snatch libraries, museums
and leisure centres away from the people of Glasgow, and to breach
the law in doing it is bad enough. To do it as a tax dodge is worse."
The union says there is little evidence that the savings and improvements
promised actually materialise. Research into museum trusts in England
and Wales has recently highlighted the pitfalls of this route.
Many such trusts suffered funding problems as council support is
phased out while voluntary donations either fail to materialise,
or do not consistently deliver the funding required to maintain
services. This very quickly results in a financial crisis and cuts
in services and opening hours. Staff are then threatened with pay
cuts and other reductions in terms and conditions. In the longer
term this means that the new organisation fails to attract or retain
quality staff and management.
For Further Information Please Contact: Mike Kirby (Glasgow
City Branch Convenor) 07803 952 261 (m) Dave Watson (Scottish organiser)
07958 122 409 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)