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Camden News - by RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 17 July 2008
Forced to retire: the librarian with four decades of loyal service

She is the face of the borough’s library service – but council chiefs want her out at 65

THEY were happy to use her picture in a promotion aimed at attracting more readers to their libraries, but council chiefs have suddenly fallen out of love with Jill Banerjee – and all because she is almost 65.
Despite more than 40 years of dedicated service and a celebrated rapport with library users, Camden’s most loyal librarian has been told to forget about working beyond her birthday next month.
Instead, Ms Banerjee – who is literally “the face of Camden’s libraries” after her appearance on the front pages of the council’s website and a series of promotion leaflets – must retire against her wishes.
Friends and union representatives have called for common sense to prevail and hope she will not be forced to say her farewells to colleagues and readers at the end of next month.
Ms Banerjee was unavailable this week but the New Journal has learned her requests to stay on in a part-time have been flatly refused.
“Jill has an unblemished record,” said one friend. “If this isn’t age discrimination, I don’t know what is.
“Many members of the public will know her helpful and kind nature.”
Ms Banerjee is a popular face at Kentish Town Library and is also familiar among users of Swiss Cottage Library, where she worked for more than 30 years.
She was described this week as “still at the top of her game”.
But an internal appeal fell on deaf ears when union representatives tried to fight her case with human resources managers at a hearing on Tuesday.
The case is thought to be one of at least a dozen where over-65s have been told they will not be kept on by Camden despite their experience and loyalty, and a desire to remain in the council’s workforce.
Camden does not have a blanket ban on employees working bey­ond the age of 65, but considers each worker’s application with a case-by-case approach.
The system could yet be ripped apart by similar cases from other areas of the country that have gone as far as the European courts and which, when resolved, could change employment practices and leave the council open to a series of appeals.
Unison union representative John Mann said: “Ms Banerjee has shown such loyalty but the council has not listened to her.
“It’s not as if she has dropped off in her work and been thinking about retirement as she reaches 65 – she is still at the top of her game and has a lot to offer Camden.”
He added: “Librarians don’t get paid great deals of money but Jill is an experienced librarian and maybe they thought they could get somebody younger in who wouldn’t cost as much – but you have to look at what you are losing.”
But Mike Cooke, director of organisation development, said last night: “Camden Council has a policy for working beyond the age of 65.
“Employees can ask to stay on and work beyond 65 and we consider all aspects of each request and look at all the ­circumstances. We do not receive many requests to stay on, but when we do we consider them on a case by case basis, and business needs differ from service to service. There were strong business reasons for the decision we made in this case, but beyond that we cannot comment on individual cases.”

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