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Union renews real Living Wage campaign for Dudley library staff

Dudley Council has pledged to speak to the contractor that runs its libraries as a union reiterated its calls for staff to be paid the real Living Wage.

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Dudley Library

Union Unison claims pay has not kept up with inflation since Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), a London-based social enterprise, took over the running of the library service in Dudley in 2017.

The union alleges that library staff are at least 12 per cent worse off as a result.

They are encouraging Dudley residents, library users, and local councillors to ask GLL to raise its wages to at least £9.90 an hour for all employees without the need for a change of employment contract.

Councillor Laura Taylor-Childs, cabinet member for housing and communities at Dudley Council, said: “We will raise this with GLL as the rights, security and pay of everyone working in our library service are important to us.”

The £9.90 rate is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation based off the cost of living and is 99p higher than the official National Living Wage.

GLL says it is intending to become an accredited Living Wage employer this spring.

Unison claimed that in the most recent medium-term financial strategy submitted to the council’s cabinet on December 15, Dudley Council has made £930,000 in "additional payments" to library services over the next three years as part of a “contract inflation”.

Yet in the same report, the Conservative-led authority has tabled £360,000 worth of savings by 2025/26 for “efficiencies resulting from new libraries service [and] contract”.

It comes as Labour councillor Adam Aston, the council’s shadow cabinet member for housing, requested answers to questions about the original contract signed between Dudley and GLL in 2017.

The council paid GLL £3.9 million to deliver the first of its five-year contract, before dropping to £3.7m a year for the remainder of the contract.

This, according to the trade union, has saved the council £1.3 million on previous in-house costs.

Theresa Kelly, branch secretary of Dudley Unison, said: “These payments indirectly from Dudley Council residents to a London-centric company need to be questioned. It raises concern over whether the claimed £1.3m in-house savings is reliable.

“Given the council has been unwilling to provide answers to the questions raised, we would urge residents and library users to join Unison’s calls for the GLL contract to be brought before the council’s public realm scrutiny committee.”

GLL also manages libraries in Wandsworth, Lincolnshire, and Greenwich.

A spokesperson for GLL said: “It is disappointing that despite numerous meetings with Unison representatives in recent months, they are still making a number of incorrect claims, suggesting that the GLL contracts being offered to staff are inferior to legacy council contracts and that GLL will not be paying the real Living Wage to all staff, regardless of contract type.

“To be clear, as an organisation it has always been our intention to become an accredited Living Wage employer.

“To do this all our staff must receive the Living Wage, regardless of their contract status.

“Despite the significant challenges the pandemic has presented us, as a not-for-profit, social enterprise, we are hopeful that we will be in a position to attain this status from April this year.”