Robinson Centre jobs pledge after asbestos closure
Belfast's new council said it will do everything in its power to avoid compulsory redundancies at a leisure centre closed due to asbestos safety concerns.
The Robinson Centre transferred to Belfast's super-council from the old Castlereagh Borough Council at midnight as part of local government reforms.
It was closed earlier this year after asbestos was discovered in the structure, but Castlereagh council re-opened it on a partial basis, with the swimming pool remaining off limits.
But Belfast council closed the building entirely for an "indefinite" period on taking ownership, prompting fears it may never open again.
The 35-plus workforce also transferred to the trust that runs Belfast lesiure services today. Management held a meeting with their new employees to update them on the situation.
A spokesman for Belfast City Council (BCC) said: "The chief executive, senior management and recognised trade union representatives met with former Castlereagh Borough Council employees affected by the indefinite closure of the Robinson Centre this morning.
"Staff were assured that BCC and the trade unions are actively working together to do everything in their power to avoid compulsory redundancies and explore every avenue to find suitable work.
"The affected staff will remain, will be paid from today by Belfast City Council and there will be a series of individual meetings with each of them after the Easter break to look at all opportunities."
Castlereagh Borough Council and Belfast City Council have been involved in a dispute over the hand-over.
The issue ended up in the High Court yesterday, with Belfast council challenging a decision by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan that the transfer of the property, and its past liabilities, should be completed on schedule.
The matter will now be subject to full judicial review at a later date. Belfast City Council did not succeed in obtaining an interim order to stop the transfer of the building.
But the council said an interim judicial direction was made to the effect that the liabilities will sit with the new Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council for the time being.
The building was temporarily closed by Castlereagh council earlier this year when previously undocumented asbestos was discovered in parts of the structure during a pre-transfer survey by BCC.
A spokeswoman for Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council said: "The Robinson Centre was transferred to Belfast City Council as from April 1.
"Any future decisions with regards to the centre are now the responsibility of Belfast City Council.
"With regard to any employers' liability or public liability claims, where the cause arose prior to April 1, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council will be responsible for these in accordance with the legal direction set down."