Decision by council reverses earlier decision to outsource leisure services and reflects widespread public opposition to move
Unions will remain on guard to ensure that leisure services at Craigavon remain in-house going forward
February 26th: There was jubilation among workers in Unite, GMB and NIPSA late last night as they heard reports that Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough councillors voted to overturn a previous recommendation to outsource the new Craigavon Leisure centre. Gareth Scott, Regional Officer for Unite welcomed the decision by councillors and thanked those parties and individuals who had supported the in-house delivery model from the start.
“All three workforce unions, Unite, GMB and NIPSA, at ABC council came together to build an unstoppable campaign to demand the new Craigavon Lakes leisure centre remain under council management and not be outsourced to a private or CoCo management company.
“The experience in other parts of Northern Ireland where leisure services have been outsourced has been uniformly bad. It’s only months since leisure services in Magherafelt had to be taken back in-house at great cost to the ratepayer due to the negative experience of outsourcing there. In Belfast, where leisure centres are outsourced to Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), Unite has exposed a string of health & safety breaches, highlighted how GLL has created a two-tier workforce to undermine workers’ pay and conditions and imposed huge price hikes which have excluded low-income users.
“Last night’s ABC council meeting overturned the Leisure committee’s recommendation to outsource management of the new Craigavon facility. This represents a convincing victory for the workforce who mobilised against this decision and the huge numbers in the local community who raised concerns. Unite would like to thank those parties and individual councillors who from the start supported the in-house model but we also welcome the fact that one of the two parties who had previously voted for outsourcing decided to reverse that stance and act in the best interests of everyone concerned.
“This vote will ensure that the new leisure centre will operate in-house for its first year of operation. All unions must remain focussed on ensuring that there is no backtracking on this commitment and that the new leisure centre remains under council management thereafter. Our local public services must remain fully democratically-accountable; there should be no diminution of either the status of workers or decisions that put generating surpluses above the needs of service users.
“This is a victory for common-sense delivered thanks to all our members and shop stewards and those of our partner unions, the GMB and NIPSA. For Unite, this decision puts centre-stage the demand that Belfast City Council reverse its decision to outsource leisure services and take all municipal leisure facilities back into direct management and subject to democratic control”, Mr Scott concluded.