Firm rejects claims of 'green jacuzzis' at Belfast leisure centres
A trade union has claimed that water in a jacuzzi in a Belfast leisure centre turned green because of cost-cutting measures introduced after management was outsourced by the City Council.
Unite also says changes to staff training practices has resulted in thousands of pounds worth of damage at other leisure facilities.
The day to day running of Belfast's leisure centres was outsourced by Belfast City Council to social enterprise Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) in 2015.
Unite spokesman Michael Keenan said: "In the case of swimming pool maintenance, GLL has already cut the eight full-time pool plant fitters formerly employed by the council to four.
"Now they want to get rid of these positions and pass on the responsibilities to lower-paid supervisors who will have to perform these functions alongside a range of others."
Mr Keenan said that training standards for leisure centre staff were being eroded.
"Instead of having fitters with more than 20 years of experience in the safe maintenance of pools, they expect supervisors with only three days' training to take on this vital role.
"Overworked supervisors have failed to maintain chlorination machines or conduct two-hourly 'code of practice' chlorine level checks on pools; in other cases jacuzzis have been left to go 'green' as they have not been subjected to the daily regime of emptying and backwashing," the union claimed.
"At the Shankill Leisure Centre, an undertrained supervisor made mistakes costing thousands of pounds of damage to equipment, and at Olympia, the errors of an inexperienced supervisor left a plant room and lift shaft flooded - thankfully, without catastrophic damage."
But Greenwich Leisure Ltd last night flatly rejected the union's claims.
A spokeswoman said: "GLL refutes Unite's claims as completely false and misleading.
"At no stage were any of its centres operating 'green' jacuzzis.
"Nor were any pools left without chlorine.
"We are a highly experienced UK-wide operator.
"Staff and customer health and safety is our top priority.
"There are over 170 qualified lifeguard staff and 55 qualified plant operators across the city, ensuring the safety of all our users, at all times.
"An independent leisure review was completed in 2017 covering health and safety and leisure operations, and resulted in a positive review of our operating procedures.
"We have carried out a number of programmes to train all staff in industry standard core leisure qualifications, and continue to do so.
"This ensures the safe operation of all leisure facilities at all times, unlike the previous model where trained staff were only available for part of the day.
"We are very proud of our management and staff teams that have many years of experience and we ensure they are well trained to serve the people of Belfast."
Unite is now planning a May Day march in support of its call for the leisure centres to be brought back under council management. It will proceed from the union's offices on the Antrim Road to Belfast City Hall.