Belfast City Council must intervene to defend services and staff at outsourced Leisure Centres

052Unite has yet to receive management report over Health & Safety impact of corner-cutting policies

Growing use of casual working is leaves increasing numbers of leisure centre staff in poverty-pay trap

June 20th: Unite Regional Officer, Michael Keenan, has called on Belfast City Council to put an end to management attacks on workers’ terms and conditions and corner-cutting on health and safety in municipal Leisure Centres by bringing the centres back into public management.

“Unite has repeatedly raised our concerns over the impact of corner-cutting by outsourced management company Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) on the health and safety of users. Recently cuts to poolside staffing and management instructions to open inadequately-filled pools resulted in our members having to turn away those with children or disabilities for fear of their safety.

“We are also concerned that employment reductions have left leisure centres operating without the numbers of dedicated staff necessary to oversee an evacuation should there be an emergency such as a fire onsite.

“After previous attempts to highlight our concerns over the impact of corner-cutting policies and staff cuts, management told the press that they had shared a review with us into health and safety at Shankill, Andersonstown and Ballysillan. The reality is that Unite has never received any such report despite our repeated attempts to secure sight of it.

“Unfortunately this is only the thin end of the wedge, the plans are to cut funding for leisure services further by reducing pay and pensions, cutting staffing levels and closing amenities but rather than implement these cuts directly Belfast City Council has outsourced its responsibilities to Greenwich Leisure Limited.

“As part of this cost-cutting agenda facilities at a number of leisure centres are now under review. The impact of existing staffing policies already in force in Avoniel and Ballysillan have been to reduce local access and to drive staffing levels below what we consider to be safe.

“We understand even further cuts to poolside staffing are planned in Shankill and Ballysillan leisure centres. The workforce in these centres believe any further cuts would be unsafe.

“What’s more the leisure centre at Andersonstown is currently closed for refurbishment. There are well-grounded fears that when it reopens, like the Olympia, it will be staffed entirely by casual labour or employees on lower paid GLL contracts. This is leisure services built on poverty-pay, a two-tier workforce and inadequate staffing.

“Belfast City Council needs to reverse this agenda and return leisure centres to municipal management to ensure all communities have access to quality and well-staffed leisure amenities and that its workers have a proper living wage”, Mr Keenan concluded.

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