Library workers are set to strike for 48 hours in an effort to prevent Greenwich Council closing its mobile library services.

Unite has called for its 84 members to strike from just after midnight on Tuesday, July 5 to fight the potential cutbacks.

According to the union, the mobile service delivers 33,000 books a year to children, an increase on last year’s 22,000.

In a statement, Unite claimed children’s literacy was at stake and did not justify a “comparatively small” saving of £126,000.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Literacy is a fundamental human right and anything that erodes that life chance should be strongly opposed. Good reading skills are the key to decent employment in adulthood – so the blinkered actions of the council need to be condemned.

“Councillors have ignored the result of their own consultation exercise and they have ignored the 1,000-strong petition handed into the council.

“They appear to believe that they know better than the experts and have failed to listen to people with decades of experience in this field. They will be depriving the inquiring minds of children of 33,000 books.

“If the mobile service is closed, other libraries will follow - that is what is at stake. That’s why we are fighting this ‘battle of the books’ with such passion.

“The council’s claim that all the borough’s schools are in walking distance of one of Greenwich’s 12 static libraries is unrealistic, given the busy school day and demands on teachers.”

The mobile library visits schools, nurseries and children’s centres.

They are run by Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) as a social enterprise set up by the local authority.

Cllr Denise Scott-McDonald, council cabinet member for culture, creative industries and community wellbeing, said: “Despite significant government budget cuts, the Royal Borough of Greenwich has invested over £12.2million in its libraries. Overall visits to our libraries are increasing when the national trend is in decline.

“Our mobile library service is one of the very last operating among inner-London boroughs; the borrowing numbers from its roadside stops has been in decline and the vehicle needed to be replaced.

“It is only right, having engaged in an extensive period of consultation, that we adapt the service to the demands of the future. There will be absolutely no redundancies as a result of the changes that have been approved and all staff working in libraries will continue to be paid the London living wage or above.

“The approved changes ensure the provision of an excellent service to residents who feel they can’t visit their nearest static library while also protecting and enhancing children’s literacy levels.

“The new outreach service will encompass class visits to libraries, staff visits to schools and a housebound service that will be delivering deposit collections to the 35 nurseries and schools covered by the existing mobile vehicle.

“Through these steps, the changes will maintain or increase the 33,000 book issues we currently deliver to schools across Royal Greenwich.”

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