Union threatens industrial action over ‘idiotic’ leisure centre ‘outsourcing’ decision

Architect's image of what the new South Lakes Leisure Centre will look like
Architect's image of what the new South Lakes Leisure Centre will look like

The GMB union has threatened industrial action over what it says is the ‘idiotic’ decision to ‘outsource’ management of the new £35m leisure centre in Craigavon.

Workers at leisure centres operated by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council (ABC) were appalled this week when the council’s leisure sub-committee voted in favour of setting up a CoCo (Council Company) to manage the new South Lakes Leisure Centre.

The union claimed outsourcing of leisure services by Belfast City Council has led to higher prices, staff cuts and less access to facilities for the public.

GMB plan to now make outsourcing a key battleground in upcoming local elections.

Alan Perry, GMB Officer, said: “GMB, along with sister unions NIPSA and Unite, has sought to engage positively with ABC council as it replaces three existing leisure centres – in Craigavon, Lurgan and Portadown – with a single one in Craigavon.

“Workers have raised a range of revenue-raising proposals including new activities and courses for the new facility. This week’s decision saw members of the Ulster Unionist Party join with the Democratic Unionist Party in voting against the unions’ preferred option which is to keep leisure services in-house.

“Leisure workers and the wider council workforce are indignant at the likely consequences of this idiotic decision – should it be ratified at the next full council meeting.

“The experience in Belfast City Council (BCC), where leisure services have been outsourced to Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), stands as a stark warning.

“GMB is committed to overturning this week’s decision and will ballot members for industrial action if necessary.”

When ABC Council was asked to comment, their response was: “The business of the meeting was confidential so we would not be in a position to comment.”