By Mike Grayson
Members of the PCS in the British Library have embarked on a campaign of industrial action, over a pay claim that dates back to August 2001.
All three trade unions represented in the British Library (PCS, Prospect, & the FDA) have a pay settlement date of 1 August each year. In August last year, the Library's senior management approached unions with the following offer:
- An award covering six months from 1 August 2001 to 31 January 2002
- An overall increase worth 3.6%
- A minimum underpin of £500 pa.
The unions agreed to the interim award on the basis that, after the end of this six month period, management and unions would reconvene to discuss the pay deal for the rest of the year up to August 2002.
However, in February 2002 management informed the unions that no more money was on offer: their "interim" deal had unilaterally turned into the total 2001/2 pay deal!
When further talks brought no concessions, unions began to make provisions to hold ballots for industrial action. Suddenly a new offer was put on the table. But this was only for an additional 0.4% - and not even backdated to 1st August 2001, but only to 1st February 2002. Unfortunately FDA and Prospect union officials were willing to recommend this pathetic increase to their members; and succeeded in winning a vote for acceptance.
The PCS was thus left to fight on alone. Despite knowing that the other unions had bottled out of a fight, members of PCS delivered a vote in favour of action. This kicked off with a well-supported one-day strike of all PCS members on Monday 29 July, followed by selective action on the following two days. Since this did not prove sufficient to get an improved pay offer, further selective action is taking place on 8 and 9 August. The British Library's senior management appear to pride themselves on their intransigence, and aloofness from their staff. We know it may take a long fight to bring them to their senses.