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Belfast leisure centres pay strike looms

UNION REP: Michael Keenan UNION REP: Michael Keenan
By Michael Jackson

WORKERS at Belfast leisure centres are to be balloted on strike action in pursuit of a six per cent pay rise.
Unite the Union will ballot its members at 12 Council-owned leisure centres, which have been under management of Greenwich Leisure Limited since January 2015.
The union is calling on local political parties to bring municipal leisure services back under Council management and to provide all leisure workers with a pay rise.
Michael Keenan, Unite Regional Officer, said that GLL had left the union “no alternative” but to consider strike action.
“We have notified the company that the ballot will open for workers commencing Friday 26th July and will remain open for fourteen days,” he said.
“Should the workforce vote in support of strike action it is likely that this will result in the closure of all twelve leisure centres owned by Belfast City Council but outsourced to this management company.
“The workforce has consistently raised objections to the cost-cutting approach of GLL. They are intent on pursuing a strategy to undermine workers’ pay, terms and conditions as well as imposing price hikes excluding lower income users. There is now a substantial two-tier workforce with increasing numbers of casual workers coming in on poverty pay rates while those previously employed by Belfast City Council are being denied pay uplifts, leaving their wages fall ever closer to the legal minimum.
“The community has been left behind as well. Last year Unite called a protest against the price hikes and attacks on workers’ pay and conditions on the peaceline which drew significant cross-community support from both the Shankill and Falls. Working class people are united in their opposition to the council’s austerity-driven policies on leisure services.
“Belfast City Council voted to outsource leisure services to this company – they cannot wash their hands of the consequences of that for either the public or their former employees. We call on all parties to reconsider their positions and bring these public services back in-house and give all the GLL workers a decent pay uplift.”
A spokesperson for GLL said the company would meet union representatives to “understand the issues they have”.
“GLL remains committed to genuine engagement on these matters in the interests of all parties, and to ensure the seamless provision of services across all of our leisure centres,” the spokesperson added.
A Belfast City Council spokesperson said: “Belfast City Council is disappointed to learn that strike action is being considered at the city’s leisure centres. Council is committed to working with GLL, its employees and their representatives to ensure the continued provision of leisure services to all our ratepayers across Belfast.”

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