The threat of industrial action at public libraries has eased after a national library merger plan was dropped.
Trade union Impact, which had been fighting the merger proposals, welcomed the move, which also clears the way for key library posts to be filled.
Impact says it will await written confirmation of the decision to drop the merger plans, which the union expects will include a commitment to fill vacant county librarian posts, and will consider the finer detail before officially deferring its industrial action.
But Impact’s national secretary Peter Nolan said: “The risk of industrial action in our library services has now reduced.”
It comes less than a month after an 87% aggregate vote by Impact members in favour of industrial action by library staff in the affected councils.
The library merger plan arose out of proposals contained in the Bord Snip report, and included plans to amalgamate library services in 12 counties spread across 13 local authority areas, including Cork City and Cork County Councils, Carlow, Cavan, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, and Westmeath.
Impact said the merger proposals, drawn up by a Dublin-based planning group, took little account of local needs and failed to include a cost-benefit analysis.
The union said neither staff nor local elected representatives had been properly consulted on the proposals which had no statutory basis. Impact also warned it would herald the end of local decision-making on library services.
Union leaders had also expressed concerns over the impact of the proposals on staffing and career structures, and the possible relocation of staff.
In Cork, the largest affected region, 142 staff were balloted across the city and county library services last month, and voted in favour of industrial action by a margin of just over 84%.
However, at a meeting of the Local Authority National Council this week, the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) — the national voice of local authority management — confirmed the issue of library amalgamations in certain county councils was no longer a matter of principle with them.
Impact issued a statement afterwards welcoming the development which includes a commitment to fill vacant county librarian posts in the counties which had up to now been blocked.
The LGMA is expected to write to the union within the next two weeks confirming its position officially.
Mr Nolan welcomed the move, and in particular, the news that the promotional blockage that had built up in the affected counties can now be removed.
“The development represents the best piece of library news for communities and workers in the affected counties since the economic crash,” he said.
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