Sandwell leisure staff strike again over ‘fire and rehire’ tactics

Leisure trust that is set to run the aquatic centre for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham is targeting staff while having millions in the bank

UNISON picket outside the Portway Lifestyle Centre

Swimming instructors, lifeguards, receptionists and other staff at the Sandwell Leisure Trust in the West Midlands took to the picket line at the Portway Lifestyle Centre this morning as they took further industrial action over changes to their contracts.

The one-day strike is the third this year by employees of the trust, in response to new agreements affecting the pay of around 280. Support has come from three Labour councillors, who visited the picket line today, as well as other trade unionists.

The employer’s use of ‘fire and rehire’ tactics has been condemned by UNISON, as they force workers to accept unfavourable new terms including no longer being paid nationally agreed rates.

Sandwell Council is being urged to help settle the dispute ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. The council has commissioned Sandwell Leisure Trust to run a new £73m aquatic centre, which will be used for the first time at the event.

UNISON Sandwell branch secretary Tony Barnsley said: “Staff are angry at being treated so shabbily against their will while Sandwell Leisure Trust still has £3.5million in the bank.

“Employees have been left with no choice but to continue with strike action until the dispute is fixed. The trust needs to see sense and restore employees’ terms and conditions immediately.

“Sandwell Council must also step in and help resolve the dispute. It cannot afford the embarrassment of strikes when the aquatic centre is used for the Commonwealth Games.”