Belfast Telegraph

Belfast's Shankill and Falls unite to battle leisure centre job cuts

By Suzanne Breen

Leisure centre staff from the Shankill and Falls are to join forces on Saturday for a cross-community rally on the peaceline in protest at plans they say threaten 49 jobs.

They will march to the peace gate at Northumberland Street to highlight what they say is a threat to jobs by leisure centre operator GLL (Greenwich Leisure Limited).

Two leisure centre workers told the Belfast Telegraph that their terms and conditions had "deteriorated dramatically" since GLL took over the running of leisure centres from the council three years ago.

"Our rights are being eroded. It is brutal and this company is being subsidised with millions of pounds of ratepayers' money," one worker said. "All the promises the council made to us have gone out the window." Another claimed that "low staffing levels" in some centres was "putting public safety at risk". The company has strongly denied the allegations.

People Before Profit councillor Matt Collins said that some staff had been told to reapply for positions which would see them switch to less favourable working conditions and that jobs were at risk. He said: "Since the disastrous decision by Belfast City Council to outsource leisure a litany of grievances has emerged against GLL.

"These job losses are the latest in a series of attacks on our leisure services. Workers are rightly angry that their terms and conditions are being eroded. It is very significant that staff are coming together from across the divide to oppose these attacks on our services." In a statement, GLL said it was a charitable social enterprise which was "in the process of implementing a modernisation programme and this includes the restructure of the leisure services it provides within Belfast".

It said: "This is a hugely positive project, which will improve employment opportunities in the city with the creation of 50 totally new jobs. While some historic staff roles will change, the restructure offers fantastic career development prospects within the leisure industry and because GLL is committed to promoting from within, existing staff who wish to progress will be given the support and training needed."

Next year would see "three new state-of-the-art leisure centres" in Twinbrook, Andersonstown and the Robinson Centre, it said. The company's operating procedures fully complied "with national health and safety and RLSS guidelines" and it continually monitored and assessed its systems "to ensure they meet or exceed leisure industry best practice", the company added.

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