March and rally organised by Unite the union ahead of council debate on motion to bring outsourced leisure services back in-house
Union reiterates claims that GLL understaffing has resulted and continues to result in serious health & safety breaches
Unite Regional Officer, Michael Keenan, spoke ahead of a workers’ march organised by his union on ‘May Day’ March [May 1st]. The march is set to leave Unite’s regional offices on the Antrim Road at 5pm for a rally outside Belfast City Hall. The rally is timed to coincide with a debate in city hall over the union’s demand for leisure services to be brought back in-house.
“Today’s march will demonstrate the continued opposition of leisure workers to Belfast City Council’s decision to outsource leisure centres to Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL). Sadly the experience of the last three years has confirmed our worst fears that this handover was simply a cover for the council to distance itself from a race-to-the-bottom on wages, workplace conditions, staff cover and health & safety.
“The council appears intent on transitioning leisure services from having a focus on local community uptake to a specialised provision geared almost exclusively for commercial returns and elite sports. Part and parcel of that transition has been the run-down of staff cover and the establishment of a two-tier workforce to undermine the possibility of organised workforce opposition.
“Alongside the cuts which are causing widespread and genuine concerns among staff, GLL has introduced inflation-busting price hikes putting leisure services out of the reach of those who need them most.
“Unless this agenda is halted – leisure centres will become the exclusive preserve of the well-to-do. Already many from working class communities and the most vulnerable are finding themselves excluded whether by cost or restrictions resulting from understaffing but we fear that this exclusion will become generalised. The reality is that under GLL there has been a growing chasm between municipal leisure services and those who live in surrounding and often highly deprived local estates.
“Today’s march and rally fittingly held on May First, the international day of Labour, will demand that Belfast’s elected representatives end GLL’s constant undermining of standards and their attacks on our members. The only way to do is return leisure services to democratically-accountable control and oversight.
“Unite has invited representatives of all political parties on city council to address today’s rally after the union speakers – we will be listening eagerly to what they have to say. We are putting them on notice with our demand that the onslaught of GLL on our members and broader health and safety issues is ended. The workforce and Unite will not stand idly by as our leisure centres are taken away from our communities”, Mr Keenan said.