Unite announces ‘May Day March’ on City Hall to demand municipal leisure centres are returned to in-house management
Outsourced management company’s cuts to pool maintenance workers leave Jacuzzis green and pools without chlorine
April 25th: Unite Regional Officer, Michael Keenan, confirmed his union is to have a ‘May Day’ March [May 1st] at 5pm from his union’s regional offices on the Antrim Road to a rally outside Belfast City Hall to demand councillors bring failing leisure services back in-house from outsourced management company Greenwich Leisure Limited.
“Leisure workers will once again mobilise to show their opposition to Belfast City Council’s outsourcing of leisure centres to management company Greenwich Leisure Limited. This move was always about delivering ‘cost-savings’ by any means possible. Unfortunately the only cost-savings GLL can come up with are staff redundancies, the introduction of a two-tier workforce, understaffing, corner-cutting on health & safety and above-inflation price-hikes that are pushing leisure services out of the reach of working-class Belfast communities.
“Our May Day March will be led by leisure workers but is open to all concerned members of the public. The march will leave Unite’s regional office on the Antrim Road and end with a rally at City Hall where those assembled will hear from union and workforce speakers ahead of the issue being discussed in the city hall. We have invited representatives of all parties to address our rally as we want to hear whether they support our demand for municipal leisure services to be brought back in-house.
“GLL mismanagement and corner-cutting are eroding the quality of our leisure provision. Their sole objective appears to be cutting staffing levels so as to make a surplus to sustain the salaries of their overpaid directors. In the case of swimming pool maintenance, GLL has already cut the eight full-time pool plant fitters formerly employed by the council to four. Now they want to get rid of these positions altogether and pass on the responsibilities to GLL-contracted, and lower-paid, Leisure Centre supervisors who will have to perform these functions alongside a range of others.
“Instead of having fitters with more than twenty-years of experience in the safe maintenance of pools – they are expect supervisors with only three days training to take on this vital role. Already on those occasions where fitters have went on leave, the results have been highly concerning. Overworked supervisors have failed to maintain chlorination machines or conduct two-hourly ‘code of practice’ chlorine level checks on pools; in other cases Jacuzzis have been left go ‘green’ as they have not been subjected to the daily regime of emptying and backwashing. These incidents have clear health and safety implications for the public.
“At the Shankill Leisure Centre, an undertrained supervisor made mistakes costing thousands of pounds of damage to equipment and at Olympia, the errors of an inexperienced supervisor left a plant room and lift shaft flooded; thankfully, without catastrophic damage resulting.
“Just like the above-inflation price hikes, GLL’s focus on cost-cutting and staff cuts are a false economy. It is high time Belfast City Council took leisure services back in-house and ended the outsourcing disaster. Our march on May Day [May 1st] will demand that councillors take back control and keep our Leisure Services at the heart of our community”, Mr Keenan said.