Sandwell leisure employees strike again in contracts row

The fourth day of action in the last 12 months comes on the back of proposals for more cuts to terms and conditions

UNISON members from Sandwell branch took further strike action today, 14 December, in what is now the longest running industrial dispute in Sandwell’s history.

Members from Portway Lifestyle Centre and Tipton Leisure Centre picketed outside their workplaces after voting by 85% on an 83% turnout to continue their fight against Sandwell Leisure Trust’s fire and rehire policy.

In March 2021, Sandwell Leisure Trust fired and rehired all 280 staff in order to remove them from national pay, terms and conditions.

UNISON members took three one-day strikes in April, June and August to fight against the decision. This fourth day of strikes come on the back of further cuts to terms and conditions.

Sandwell branch secretary Tony Barnsley, said: “Despite promising not to make any further changes to terms other than pay until March 2022, management have now sent the trade unions proposals to make any COVID-related absence count towards targets and triggers. This proposal effectively breaks their own promise.

“Our members are determined to continue their fight against being unnecessarily ‘fired and rehired’ against their will whilst the trust still has £3.5 million in the bank.

“We call upon the Labour council to intervene to avoid this unnecessary dispute running until the Commonwealth Games in 2022.”

UNISON West Midlands regional secretary Ravi Subramanian added: “At a time when £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.”

Meanwhile, UNISON, GMB and Unite have tabled a 10% pay claim for 2022 or a return to national pay, terms and conditions.