Sinn Fein council group leader cites £16-20 million shortfall and threat of a 10% rate increase cost as unacceptable cost for ending privatisation
Unite the union members highlight latest health & safety issues at Ozone as cutbacks by outsourced management company continue
October 4th: Michael Keenan, Unite Regional Officer reiterated his union’s call for leisure services to be taken back in-house by Belfast city council:
“The demand for Belfast City Council to take leisure centres back in-house has been mounting as public awareness has grown of the catalogue of health and safety breaches across the centres under GLL management. Unite continues to challenge the city council over their decision to outsource these centres with the aim of reducing operating costs.
“The reality is that the savings demanded by the council have been achieved through brutal cuts to workers’ terms and conditions, significant redundancies and drastic corner-cutting on staffing levels and health and safety provisions.
“Only yesterday staff at the Ozone centre reported another health and safety concern as a coffee machine was plumbed in at reception’s front foyer opposite a stairwell, at the narrowest point in the corridor. Refusing to install a permanent power point, GLL management insisted on powering the unit by an extension lead running across the main exit route from the building where it is held down with masking tape and a mat. This clearly represents a hazard to service users, in particular those who are blind.
“Incidents like this are almost a daily occurrence. Health and safety standards across the leisure facilities has plummeted as a result of the decision to outsource outside the council”.
Mr Keenan questioned figures supplied by the leader of the largest council group, Sinn Féin, who have previously called for leisure centres to be brought back in-house which were used to justify his party’s failure to follow-through on that position.
“At Monday night’s council meeting, Councillor Beattie of Sinn Féin justified his party’s refusal to back a motion calling for these services to be brought back into municipal management with a string of apparently groundless figures. He quoted the cost of ending outsourcing as an incredible £16-20 million, which he claims would mean a 10% hike on rates; he asserted that ending privatisation would threaten hundreds of jobs and force the closure of a number of leisure centres.
“No justification for these figures was offered and we fail to understand how the return of leisure facilities, previously run by the council, could result in such a huge cost. Should the figures be true questions need to be asked about the commitments entered into by the council as part of the contract with GLL.
“While it appears that the main parties in the council are united in their hopes to draw the line under growing campaign to return leisure services to public management, the truth the consequences of austerity agenda they are driving will continue to generate opposition from both unions and the wider public. In order to charter a way forward, Unite is calling for tri-partite talks to include political representatives, representatives of the council and the workplace reps and senior team of our union”, Mr Keenan concluded.