LIBRARY and museum staff in Bradford are to strike for 14 days in what has been dubbed as a "wake up call" to the Council in the face of cuts. 

The Unite union, which represents around 50 library and museum staff, has said the first two-day strike will be on October 21 and 22. 
There will then be a three-day strike on November 5, 6 and 7.

This will be followed by a four-day stoppage between November 18 and 21 inclusively and a five-day strike from December 2 and 6. All strikes will start at one minute past midnight. 

This follows Unite 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. 

Bradford Council will cut its museums and galleries budget, currently, £1.8 million, by £500,000 in 2020/21. The libraries budget, which is currently £2,824,000, will be cut by £1.5 million.

The Council says the cuts are needed due to its funding from central government being slashed through austerity.

Unite regional officer Mark Martin said: “The 14 days of strike action throughout the autumn we have announced today are a very strong shot across the council’s bows.

“It is a wake-up call for the council to come to the table for constructive negotiations – Unite’s door is open 24/7 for such talks.

“The number of strike days demonstrates how passionately 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.

“The council’s failure to engage with Unite is in sharp contrast to its aspiration to be UK City of Culture 2025. 

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

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition calling on the council to reconsider the cuts.

Council chiefs say they have no choice due to reductions in funding from central Government.

Officials have drawn up plans to carry out a a “needs assessment” for each library, looking at changing demographics of different areas, usage statistics and taking into account the views of library users.

The Council has already given a commitment to retain all 29 libraries if at all possible.

The authority is also exploring areas where co-operation may be possible, possibly with public health bodies in the hope of making libraries hubs for the community.

Bradford Council said in a statement: “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 September 1. 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."

It said during the course of strike action, the Council will "take steps to help ensure that library services are still provided to residents". 

The statement added: “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.”