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Belfast council motion tabled calling for leisure centre body to officially recognise trade unions


People Before Profit's Fiona Ferguson

People Before Profit's Fiona Ferguson

People Before Profit's Fiona Ferguson

A motion is to be tabled before Belfast City Council (BCC) calling on GLL, the company that manages council-owned leisure centres in the city, to officially recognise trade unions.

It comes amid a wave of trade union strikes and protests across the UK over pay and conditions.

Back in 2014, BCC outsourced the running of its leisure facilities in the city to London-based firm Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL).

Trade union Unite, which represents many leisure centre workers in Northern Ireland, has long criticised the outsourcing, contending that the move has been a “disaster” for staff. GLL does not formally recognise the union.

Last month, there was criticism over a BCC decision to wind down a body set up to scrutinise the running of council leisure centres.

The council’s Active Belfast Limited Board (ABL) was set up following the outsourcing of municipal leisure services and includes representatives from the council, Unite and GLL.

Now, People Before Profit councillor Fiona Ferguson has said she is to table a council motion calling GLL to officially recognise trade unions.

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Ms Ferguson held a meeting earlier this week with councillors and trade union representatives to discuss the issue.

“There is a myriad of issues [affecting leisure centre workers], including health and safety in the centres, conditions, and issues relating to pay and conditions for the workers,” she said.

“But what is key for me, and I think it is a disgrace, is that GLL are refusing to officially recognise trade unions representing workers on these issues, which is tying their hand behind their backs when trying to represent them.

“This isn’t just a damning indictment of GLL, in a period when we are seeing more and more workers having to fight back for proper pay and conditions in the workplace. It is also an embarrassment for Belfast City Council, who are well aware of the issues in our leisure centres and who are responsible for the outsourcing, which I think laid the path for trade unions in our leisure centres getting the cold shoulder.

“I have submitted a motion to Belfast City Council, which I am calling on all parties to support. It would urge GLL to recognise trade unions so they have a fair playing field to collectively bargain around pay, terms and conditions and get the trade union health and safety reps that they should have in our leisure centres.”

Ms Ferguson said she would ultimately like to see the running of council leisure centres brought back in-house.

GLL said: “GLL is not aware of any health and safety issues within our centres. We uphold the highest level of standards and provide an environment that is safe, supportive and safeguards the welfare of all of our customers and employees.

“In light of the rising cost of living, we were pleased to award a pay uplift that averaged at 4% for all staff in April 2022 and will continue to keep staff salaries under review.

“We continue to engage with trade unions through regular meetings of our Trade Union Forum, which ensures an active dialogue with the unions working in Northern Ireland. This is a valuable forum that allows union members to be represented and we will continue to share updates in that environment.”

A BCC spokesperson said: “Council remains committed to working with GLL to ensure the continued provision of leisure services across Belfast. Any decision to change the current operating model would be a matter for elected members.”

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