The Cilip AGM is upon us shortly and members are being asked to dig deeply into financially shallow pockets yet again. In a post last year I argued against raising the subscription rate but was in a minority and the increase was passed. Unfortunately, it seems Cilip is determined to treat members as milch cows despite the job losses and limit on public sector pay.
I think the debate over fees was lost amongst the changes to the governance model last year and unfortunately might well be again this year as the focus will be on the proposal to oppose the amateurisation of the public library services.
But the ever increasing subscription rates is an important issue that should be given greater prominence.
The current fee for those earning more than £17,501 is £204 with a proposed increase to £208 from 2016. Since 2010 subscription fees will have increased from £184 to £208 (if agreed) representing an increase of 13% and the fourth time they will have been raised in a relatively short time.
Now set this against a background of pay freezes and pay caps for public sector workers, including library staff, over the past 5 years. Many librarians have felt the full impact of the austerity measures not only in terms of job losses but also in rising living costs. The government has announced that public sector pay will be capped once again at 1% until 2018. But the 1% is not guaranteed. Greg Hands, chief secretary to the Treasury has stated that the rise should be paid in a ‘targeted manner’ with some workers getting more and others getting less than the 1%.
The change to subscriptions not only affects professionally qualified librarians but also many experienced staff who apply for ACLIP status as they have to pay the same rates. These staff are likely to be on the lower end of the subscription band and tend to be part-time workers. In fact throughout public libraries underemployment is a real issue limiting the amount of disposable income.
For library staff who have suffered derisory pay rises during the past few years the cost of membership is a major investment. With this in mind Cilip should be looking at ways of freezing or reducing fees rather than putting an additional burden on members.
One of the inequities is that the subscription band for most members ranges from £17,501 – £42,00. This is far too broad and members have repeatedly requested that different bands be created with a more equitable sliding scale. This has not happened and I suspect there will be many who will ask if the investment in membership, particularly in public libraries, justifies the cost and decide to vote with their feet. For an organisation that struggles to retain members this continuing increase in fees is not a sustainable policy.
Needless to say I will not be supporting the subscription increase and hope that others also question the need to do so during difficult financial times for members.
As part of the justification for the increase the subscription proposal argues that:
“Wage inflation is varied with general wage inflation reportedly being 3.5%, however at the same time I am well aware that some members in the public sector will have had no inflation increase.”
However, as a recent story in the Financial Times recognised this rise is driven by private sector pay and bonuses. Thus, the above claim is misleading and a far cry from what public sector workers, who face a pay cap of 1% until 2018, can expect.