Council must take back control of Leisure Centres, not conduct another delaying review

Michael KeenanUnite in discussions with NIPSA on next steps in workforce campaign to reverse outsourcing

After success of Falls and Shankill United Workers March, action not more words needed from Belfast City Council

April 10th: Unite Regional Officer, Michael Keenan, welcomed signs that some of the political parties on Belfast City Council were reconsidering the outsourcing of the city’s leisure services.

“Last Saturday, leisure workers gathered for a historic workers march starting from both the Falls and Shankill Leisure Centres and converging at the peacelines. The strength of the mobilisation demonstrated the support existing among former Belfast City Council employees for leisure centres to be returned to locally-accountable management.

“Some of the parties on Belfast City Council have responded to the workers’ march by promising a review into the disaster that is the handover of leisure centres to Greenwich Leisure Limited. That is to be welcomed but promises of another review are not enough at this time. The workers and the local communities want these services brought back in-house by the city council. They need councillors to take back control.

“Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) is cutting every corner in the leisure service: that means a continuous attack on the jobs and terms & conditions of our members – it also means a two-tier workforce. Staffing levels have been cut to the bone – to the point where unions have had to expose again and again the health & safety risks arising from understaffing. While almost fifty of the remaining Belfast City Council workers now face choosing between a GLL contract or redundancy, we have already lost 118 jobs – all replaced by workers on low-paid, casual GLL contracts. Poverty pay, casual labour is no vision for the future of our municipal leisure services.

“While staffing levels have plummeted and workers faced attacks to their pay and T&Cs – local users have been subjected to huge price hikes. Those living in the deprived working-class communities in which these centres are located and for whom they were built are increasingly priced out. Millions of ratepayers money has been channelled into GLL ‘centres of excellence’ by the city council only for them to become the exclusive preserve of the well-to-do.

“The demand that leisure services are returned to city council control has been raised at sub-committee level and we have been told that there is nothing to prevent this from happening. The councillors must do the right thing and bring these services back in-house, make sure every leisure services worker is employed is on a decent Belfast City Council wage and to bring in access-pricing that allows working-class people to access leisure services. That’s the only way to keep Belfast’s leisure services at the heart of our communities”, Mr Keenan said.

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