Forty jobs to be lost at National Library of Wales

40 JOBS ARE TO BE LOST at the National Library of Wales over the next few months, at a cost to the Welsh Government of £1.5m in redundancy money. The ‘restructuring’, which the library claims will save £1.25m a year, has been criticised by Ceredigion AM Elin Jones, who has said that the Welsh Government should not be funding job losses. The overall cost to the library of these redundancies is estimated by the library to be £2m, with 75 per cent of this cost being met by the Welsh Government through its Invest to Save scheme.

Photo - Alex Tanton

Photo – Alex Tanton

The Invest to Save scheme provides interest-free loans to public bodies for cash-generating projects, and there is no set time-scale for the loan to be repaid by the library.

Elin Jones stated that: “I would never have envisaged that a staff reduction programme would have been financed out of Invest to Save. As far as I’m concerned, the spirit of the scheme was, for instance, to encourage capital expenditure which would save money in the long term, or funding towards better integration of services between local authorities and other public bodies. I have already discussed this matter with the unions, and I will be working with them and with the library over the months to come on issues surrounding the reorganisation and the institution’s funding. It’s hugely disappointing that, because of ongoing funding cuts, there will be 40 fewer jobs at the National Library of Wales. The institution is immensely important for the local economy, as well as being an iconic national institution.”

Several members of staff at the National Library spoke anonymously to The Courier, with one stating that: “They’re borrowing money to cut staff, yet some of the staff they’re cutting actually create income for the library. Hundreds of years’ worth of experience that can’t be replaced is being thrown away on voluntary redundancies. There are parts of the national collection falling apart because there isn’t the money to conserve them.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said that the £1.5m allocated to the National Library in order to pay off voluntary redundancies had been given so that the library “can meet their up front cost of release schemes without detriment to their normal running-cost budgets at a time when public finances are under extreme pressure. Invest to Save can be used to help fund Voluntary Early Release schemes provided they are part of a wider programme to improve efficiency. However, no compulsory redundancies are supported by the fund.”

A staff member at the National Library of Wales, however, told the The Courier that those porters who wanted to take voluntary redundancy were being forced to accept the privatisation of front of house cleaning services in order for the library to accept their requests for voluntary redundancy, in a move that has been described as “Stealth privatisation. It starts with the cleaners, divide and rule, and where does it stop?” Alterations to shift patterns has seen porters moved to twelve hour shifts from previous eight hour shift patterns. Altered shift patterns has seen their pay packets reduced by thousands of pounds a year – despite already being among the lowest paid staff at the National Library. “Because of staff cuts, if anything happened to a porter who was on a night shift or alone in the control room, it could be hours before anyone found them”.

Staff morale at the library has been described as “devastatingly low”, with job cuts reaching as high as 80% in some areas over the last two years. “The expectations of the public are the same, and library staff are trying to keep to those expectations”, a staff member said “but it’s utterly demoralising when you keep having to apologise for problems all the time”. “Sickness is going through the roof and there’s no slack if someone is away – staff are having to be borrowed between departments to fill in, because there just aren’t enough resources to do the job. Every meeting with management just brings more bad news. Morale is as low as it could possibly get.”

Staff numbers at the library will fall under the restructuring programme from 275 to 235 by May this year, through a combination of retirement, voluntary redundancies and empty posts not being filled. Up to five compulsory redundancies could also be made, and, with services and departments merging during the restructuring, around thirty jobs have been placed “at risk”. Talks have already begun between the library, affected staff members and unions.