Sandwell leisure workers celebrate pay victory after latest strike

Employer announces it will return the workers to national pay, terms and conditions after last week’s industrial action

Strikers outside Smethwick Baths

Leisure workers in Sandwell are celebrating a victory this week, after their employer, the Sandwell Leisure Trust, announced that it will return the workers to national pay, terms and conditions.

The board of the trust announced the decision on Friday. It reverses the fire and rehire of staff that took place back in March 2021.

UNISON has been in dispute with the trust for 20 months over the fire and rehire policy. This involved ongoing negotiations with the employer, taking strike action, direct lobbying of councillors, a demonstration outside the new Commonwealth Games Aquatic Centre and a lobby of Sandwell council.

In February, Sandwell metropolitan council announced that it would be ending its contract with the trust and finding a new way forward for the facilities.

However, as the council continues to explore ways forward, UNISON members balloted again, specifically over pay, and took strike action last week, alongside colleagues from other unions.

Sandwell UNISON branch secretary Tony Barnsley said: “This decision is great news for all the staff working at Sandwell Leisure Trust. It is the culmination of the hard work and dedication by UNISON at a branch and regional level.”

Mr Barnsley noted that the union had “combined an industrial strategy with a political strategy from day one to win. This helped give UNISON members the confidence to keep fighting for 20 long months.

“Congratulations to them and all that took part in the strike action on 10 May, including the other unions.”

UNISON regional organiser Louise Dalton also welcomed the move, adding that the decision safeguards and protects employee terms, conditions and pay moving forward.

“We also need to thank those in the wider Labour movement who gave solidarity through donations, by leafletting councillors or visiting picket lines. It all helped and was greatly appreciated,” she said.

“The support from Labour councillors was also welcome in helping settle the dispute.”