Sandwell leisure centre staff go on strike over 'fire and rehire' contracts move

Sandwell leisure centre staff have gone on strike over changes to the contracts of around 280 employees.

Portway Lifestyle Centre.
Portway Lifestyle Centre.

A one-day strike was taking place today after union bosses said Sandwell Leisure Trust workers such as swimming instructors, lifeguards and receptionists were told if they didn’t accept the new agreements, which will affect pay, their jobs could be at risk.

Unison said it condemned the use of “fire and rehire” tactics which force staff to accept unfavourable new terms, including no longer being paid nationally agreed rates.

Staff represented by the union voted to take strike action last month. The leisure trust runs centres and facilities on behalf of Sandwell Council.

Unison West Midlands regional secretary Ravi Subramanian said: "Sandwell Leisure Trust must do the right thing and restore employee’s terms and conditions, including pay, in line with national agreements."

Branch secretary for Sandwell, Tony Barnsley, said: "At a time when a £73m is being ploughed into the new aquatic centre being built in the borough, there can be no justification for workers’ terms and conditions to be cut.

"Staff running Sandwell’s leisure centres during these difficult times shouldn’t be subjected to such treatment when the trust has millions in the bank."

Sandwell’s Labour MP John Spellar said: “Even Boris Johnson has called fire and rehire tactics unacceptable, although he hasn’t done anything about it.

"Everyone in Sandwell must be concerned at moves to do this at Sandwell Leisure Trust.

Defend

"We need to support the employees taking action to defend national agreements and terms and conditions.

"Sandwell Council need to intervene before this situation worsens."

A spokesman for Sandwell Leisure Trust said that it had been formally notified by the union that members had been called to take part in strike action today.

The spokesman said: "Not all trade unions or their members have agreed to taking part in this industrial action.

"We have been informed that those that have voted to participate only represent 16 per cent of the total workforce.

"This may affect some service delivery throughout the day which includes access to gyms, activity areas, swimming and or swimming lessons.

"Sandwell Leisure Trust is committed to safeguarding the future employment of our staff and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the services it manages in Sandwell.

"Around 58 per cent of our workforce live in Sandwell and we are committed to remaining a good sustainable local employer for local people delivering local services.

"We will continue to work hard to deliver safe, award-winning services for our customers to enjoy whilst preventing SLT becoming another casualty as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected so many other employers and businesses."

All centres are scheduled to remain open, so for more information on any services which will be affected by the strike action, go to slt-leisure.co.uk/news/customer-update-possible-disruptions-friday-30th-april/

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