AN employee of Carmarthenshire County Council has received a letter regarding an issue whereby the employee did not have sufficient room to stand up in one of the county’s new mobile library vans.

The Carmarthenshire branch  of UNISON claim that a manager from the county council wrote to one of their members addressing the issue and that the employee was told that the issue to be resolved was ‘ you are too tall to be able to stand in the back of the mobile library van without stooping’.

In a statement issued to Llanelli Online today, Thursday (Mar 15) the union said: “Carmarthenshire County Council Libraries management recently decided to acquire new mobile library vans to modernise the service they claimed. However the council’s revenue budget consultation document 2017-18 to 2019-20 shows they are considering ‘to close or co-locate the least cost effective branch libraries and provide the service through an enhanced mobile library service if they were to close’.

“Our members consider that using mobile library vans to replace local branch libraries would be an inferior service for the public and our branch will oppose any branch closures or the use of volunteers to replace our members’ jobs.

“What also concerns us is how new mobile vans were bought by the local authority (fleet department) and leased to Libraries when the headroom of the vans was too low for one of our members to stand upright in. We have asked management in the library department many times how this could happen and to date no one has taken responsibility for this. Library management blamed fleet and visa versa. What we can say is whether or not library management gave fleet the correct height specifications- they nevertheless leased the vans off Fleet that did not have enough headroom.

“An indication of management failure to acknowledge their responsibility is when they wrote to our member on the 22 November 2017 under the heading Issues to be resolved the manager said ‘The specific issue to be resolved, is that: you are too tall to be able to stand in the back of the mobile library van without stooping, this clearly is putting the cart before the horse if  vans (which are available) with sufficient headroom had been purchased our member  would not be ‘too tall’.

“This is a clear failure of management -employees were not consulted before the vans were purchased and they were only shown the new vans two weeks before they were due to be deployed, at this time it was pointed out that the head height was too low. We think that someone should take responsibility for the error and rectify it by purchasing at least one van with sufficient headroom for our member to work in safely. Our member has suffered a lot of stress and anxiety as a result of someone’s mistake and management in our opinion are seeking ‘solutions’ that are the cheapest but not necessarily the safest or best option.

“While management did put arrangements in place that our member would spend the bulk of their time working on Housebound/delivery services when they did work on the new vans he had someone working in the back. Now management are putting pressure on our member that on occasion ‘limited periods’ he will work in the back of the van with a wheeled seat provided. We do not consider this a safe alternative.”

Responding to our article the council’s executive board member for leisure, Cllr Peter Hughes-Griffiths said: “The mobile library service was introduced to help those living in our rural communities who often find it difficult to travel to our main libraries. The service has been well received and continues to develop with additional services such as care and repair, employment and training opportunities and other digital services. We are also working with a number of partners to bring even more mobile services to these communities. The fleet is considered exemplary within the sector and was developed following thorough consultation both within and outside the library service and consideration of best practice internationally. Whilst we cannot discuss individual employee matters via the media, we can confirm that we are liaising closely with the member of staff, and union representatives, to resolve any issues.”

Photo: Wiki Commons, Collections of the State Library of NSW.

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