Sandwell leisure workers strike to open new pay battle

Together with the GMB and Unite, the move comes after the council vowed to end the contract with Sandwell Leisure Trust in the wake of its decision to fire and rehire all staff

Strikers outside Smethwick Baths

UNISON members in the West Midlands are taking strike action today in support of a 10% pay claim or a return to national local government NJC pay.

Joined by members of GMB and Unite, this new dispute follows the fire and rehire of all 280 staff at Sandwell Leisure Trust to remove them from national pay terms in March 2021.

In February this year, Sandwell metropolitan borough council announced that it was terminating the contract with the trust to run nine leisure centres across Sandwell, and looking at how to run the centres in the future, after a series of strikes by staff over their being fired and rehired.

Today’s one-day strike will take place after UNISON members voted by 95.7% for industrial action in a recent ballot.

UNISON Sandwell branch secretary Tony Barnsley stated: “The price of food, fuel and energy keep rising and inflation is forecast to go above 10% this year.

“This is a reasonable claim that we urge the board of Sandwell Leisure Trust to settle. If they had not fired and rehired their staff in the first place, this industrial action would not be necessary.”

Mr Barnsley added that UNISON members are “determined to fight for better pay. All three unions striking together means that more leisure centres will be shut or adversely affected on the day.

“We want Sandwell Leisure Trust to pay up, rather than sitting on millions in reserves.”