GMB trade union has threatened industrial action over a decision to outsource staff at council run leisure centres.
Workers at leisure centres operated by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council (ABC) were appalled this week when the council’s Leisure sub-committee voted in favour of allowing the outsourcing of the local authority’s leisure services.
The outsourcing of leisure services by nearby Belfast City Council has led to higher prices, staff cuts and less access to facilities for the public.
GMB will now make outsourcing a key battleground in upcoming local elections.
Alan Perry, GMB Officer, said:
“GMB, along with sister unions NIPSA and Unite, has sought to engage positively with ABC council as it replaces three existing leisure centres – in Craigavon, Lurgan and Portadown – with a single one in Craigavon.
“Workers have raised a range of revenue-raising proposals including new activities and courses for the new facility. Last night’s decision in which members of the Ulster Unionist Party joined with the Democratic Unionist Party in voting against the unions’ preferred option which to keep leisure services in-house.
“Leisure workers and the wider council workforce are indignant at the likely consequences of this idiotic decision – should it be ratified at the next full council meeting.
“The experience in Belfast City Council (BCC), where leisure services have been outsourced to Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), stands as a stark warning.
“GLL has completely failed to deliver the operating efficiencies they promised at the time of outsourcing.
“Instead they have rolled out price increases and widespread staffing cuts which have sharply curtailed access to pools for those not already able to swim.
“At some leisure centres, understaffing and a haphazard approach to chlorination has led to centres being closed for weeks and thoroughly cleaned after Legionella was found.
GMB is a campaigning union, and our members have campaigned up and down the country against the government’s sustained assault across public services. Public opinion is on our side. Indeed, GMB’s Pay Pinch campaign fuelled the public pressure that proved decisive in busting the public sector pay cap.
“Under public pressure to bring services back in house, BCC now claim the clawback costs associated with ripping up the contract would lead to 10 per cent rates hike, hundreds of redundancies and the closure of several leisure centres.
“Do ABC councillors want to walk their local authority into a similar trap?
“GMB is committed to overturning last night’s decision and will ballot members for industrial action if necessary.”