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Talks to avoid strikes at Sandwell leisure centres

By George Makin | Sandwell | News | Published:

Unions representing 300 staff in Sandwell leisure centres who face a two-year pay freeze have met with employers in an attempt to avoid a strike.

Tipton Sports Academy

Shop stewards and Sandwell Leisure Trust (SLT) met this week after workers voted to reject the proposal and to hold a separate ballot on industrial action.

The threat of strikes came after the trust asked staff to accept a pay freeze after suffering massive losses as the borough’s nine leisure centres were closed during the coronavirus lockdown.

Unions claim it would would mean workers accepting a real term wage cut of up to a £1,000 a year.

Speaking before the meeting, Ian King, assistant branch secretary for Unison, said it was hoped to avoid industrial action if at all possible.

“We are wanting to get back round the table and discuss options that don’t effect the terms and conditions of our members,” he said.

“We will reflect the views of staff and report the result of the ballot to management.

“It is then up to them to decide what they do and how we proceed.”

Since March all of Sandwell’s leisure centres have been closed with the exception of Tipton where staff have packed over 12,000 boxes with food and essential items for vulnerable people.

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The trust runs sports facilities for Sandwell Council which has continued its funding during the lockdown.

A council spokesperson said: “The council has continued to pay a management fee of £242,802 per month to support SLT over the past four months.

“The council is also working with SLT to assess what support they may need in the future.”

Unions are hoping the council will provide additional financial support or take the service back under the authority’s direct control.

Sandwell Leisure Trust declined to comment.

George Makin

By George Makin

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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