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Outsourcing of Belfast leisure services 'a disaster' - councillor tables motion over job loss fears

By Andrew Madden

A motion is due to be tabled tonight at Belfast City Council in reaction to proposed job losses in leisure centres across the city.

The motion, brought forward by People Before Profit's Matt Collins, will also call on the council to explore the possibility of bringing leisure services back under council control.

Three years ago, Belfast City Council (BCC) decided to outsource leisure provision in the city to operators GLL (Greenwich Leisure Limited).

Trade union Unite says that, since then, more than 100 former BCC employees have been replaced with "poorly paid, casual workers".

On April 7, hundreds of leisure workers and their supporters marched along the Falls and Shankill roads to highlight concerns about job losses and "the erosion of workers' terms and conditions".

Workers say that GLL's current plans will threaten some 49 jobs in Belfast. During Tuesday evening's monthly council meeting at City Hall, a protest against the proposed jobs cuts will also take place, organised by Unite.

Mr Collins said the outsourcing of leisure in the city has been a "disaster" and leisure provision in Belfast should be brought back under council control.

"This campaign by workers and unions is growing in momentum and it cannot be ignored anymore," he said.

"Workers are rightly disgusted by the actions of GLL who have systematically run down their terms and conditions and the conditions of some of the centres - all while being subsidised by ratepayer's money.

"The outsourcing of leisure has been a disaster and it's high time the parties who voted for it recognise that, and join this campaign."

In a statement, GLL said it was a charitable social enterprise that is "in the process of implementing a modernisation programme" which will include "the restructuring of the leisure services it provides within Belfast".

"This is a hugely positive project, which will improve employment opportunities in the city with the creation of 50 new jobs," it added.

"While some historic staff roles will change, the restructure offers fantastic career development prospects within the leisure industry."

Unite regional officer Michael Keenan said: "Going forward, we need to see the protections afforded to these positions when they were with BCC maintained, not replaced with zero hour contracts on lower pay."

Belfast Telegraph

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