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£200k Belfast City Council bailout rescues jobs of 140 casual staff for now

City Hall support package grants reprieve for workers at Waterfront and Ulster Halls


Waterfront Hall in Belfast

Waterfront Hall in Belfast

Waterfront Hall in Belfast

More than 100 casual staff at Belfast's Waterfront Hall and Ulster Hall (BWUH) have won a temporary reprieve after councillors agreed a £200,000 support package.

Last week BWUH said payments to casual staff had ceased, affecting up to 140 people.

The company later said it would review letting workers go after the Government announced the furlough scheme would be extended for a month.

Last night BWUH said: "Following the announcement about the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and in light of new funding being made available by Belfast City Council, we will avail of the support provided under CJRS in relation to our pool of casual workers.

"Once CJRS ends we anticipate the casual workers will transfer to the Job Support Scheme Closed (JSSC) or whichever scheme BWUH Ltd is eligible for at such time."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had announced he would extend the furlough scheme until the beginning of December.

The Waterfront Hall, ICC Belfast (international convention centre) and Ulster Hall closed to the public on March 17.

Under the job retention scheme, BWUH continued to pay casual and permanent staff.

But it said last week that to "ensure BWUH Ltd does all that it can to protect the long-term viability of the venues, and in line with the end of the furlough scheme on October 31, 2020, payments to casual team members have now ceased".

"We have a casual pool of up to 140 who work across our calendar of entertainment and business events throughout the year. With casual contracts, there is no obligation for an employer to offer paid work to casual staff, and likewise, no obligation for the casual worker to accept work." Last night Sinn Fein's Belfast City Council leader Ciaran Beattie said £200,000 of support had been secured for workers in the Waterfront Hall, Ulster Hall and local leisure centres.

"This intervention has protected 140 jobs in the Waterfront and Ulster Halls," he added.

"A number of GLL staff working in Belfast City Council leisure centres, who have opted for voluntary redundancies, were also being offered what they felt were inadequate packages.

"This proposal will mean that those workers will be given a voluntary redundancy package that is in line with their Belfast City Council counterparts."

Alliance councillor Sian Mulholland said she was "relieved there was cross-party agreement about a package of support for our 'casual' workers".

"Thankfully, a month's extension of furlough has bought time," she said.

"Also, 'casual' is a misnomer - these are highly skilled, uniquely trained individuals that we need to retain."

Green Party councillor Anthony Flynn said: "While it is welcome progress that we have been able to secure these jobs, I will continue to advocate for more secure contracts for workers at BWUH.

"It is shameful that workers and families were put in this position only weeks before Christmas due to uncertainty over precarious working arrangements and lack of clarity on the Government's JSS scheme."

Belfast Telegraph