Belfast City Council vote for Greenwich Leisure Limited to recognise leisure workforce unions must now be implemented

Leisure staff warn council that failure to recognise representative trade unions will led to ballot on industrial action.

Outsourced leisure services across Belfast are delivered by a two-tier workforce with staff pay the lowest in Northern Ireland, further exposing them to the pain of the cost of living crisis.

Councillors at Belfast City Council yesterday [Thursday, 1 September] voted in support of the formal recognition of representative trade unions at municipal leisure centres. In response, Unite the union, the largest representative union, called on the council to move swiftly to deliver the commitment and ensure that outsourced management company, Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), afford basic union recognition to its members.

The union warned that if the vote was not enforced, it would leave its members working in outsourced, council leisure centres with no alternative but to ballot for industrial action.

Since management of municipal leisure centres was handed over to Greenwich Leisure Limited, there have been repeated protests and strikes against threats to workers’ pensions, pay and staffing levels. 

The two-tier workforce in leisure centres includes those newly contracted through inferior GLL-contracts and those retaining council-contracts. Both sets of workers are the lowest paid municipal leisure workers in Northern Ireland.

Unite regional officer for Belfast City Council Kieran Ellison demanded the council make good on the resolution for union recognition:

“The decision to outsource leisure centres to Greenwich Leisure Limited has been a disastrous one both for workers and leisure centre users. Unite members have been forced to strike repeatedly and campaign against threats to pensions, pay, staffing levels and price hikes.

“Outsourcing was simply a way to cut costs through attacking the terms and conditions of workers at arms-length from council. As a result, there is now a two-tier workforce in the leisure centres with a majority employed under inferior GLL-contracts than the former council contracts. But both groups of staff are the worst paid leisure staff in Northern Ireland.

“With councillors recently voting to scrap the Active Living Belfast partnership, there is now no mechanism for concerns of leisure workers to be raised. The refusal of outsourced management company Greenwich Leisure Limited to recognise the representative trade unions now is more problematic than ever.

“While it is the bare minimum, we still welcome the council vote in favour of union recognition; that vote must now be implemented. Otherwise we will be left with little alternative but to proceed with a ballot on strike action.”

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