Welsh leisure centre workers claim insourcing victory

After a UNISON-led campaign, a Welsh council has announced that its leisure services will be brought back in house

Port Talbot leisure workers

Welsh workers are celebrating a decision to bring leisure services back into public hands in a move that union leaders want to see replicated across the country.

Neath Port Talbot Council decided at a cabinet meeting on 1 February that indoor leisure services will once again be operated by the local authority, after more than 20 years of being run by Celtic Leisure.

Last year, UNISON – the largest trade union representing staff at the council – launched a campaign calling for these services to be run by the local authority.

The campaign involved a series of negotiations with the council and the direct lobbying of politicians, a rebutted legal claim, ongoing news coverage in local press, and a UNISON demonstration at the civic centre, which was covered by BBC News.

The leisure centre workers also received the support of over 3,800 people who signed a public petition.

UNISON steward and Neath Sports Centre facilities manager Mike Bendyk said that allowing leisure services to be delivered by the council is fantastic news for all staff currently employed by Celtic Leisure. 

“This decision is great news, not only for the public, but for all the staff working in leisure facilities in Neath Port Talbot, and will mean a brighter future and job security for all those employees.

“It will help secure their long-term future, protect their pensions and their terms and conditions, and make it a really positive environment for them to work in.”

UNISON regional organiser Joe Donnelly also welcomed the move, adding that the union now wants to see this used as a blueprint for other local authorities across Wales.

“We are looking forward to working closely with the council in Neath Port Talbot to ensure the success of leisure services being placed in public hands.

“This decision is the culmination of the hard work and dedication by UNISON activists and partners who have campaigned tirelessly to see these important services run publicly after decades of private ownership.

“This should now act as a springboard for local authorities across Wales to take notice and consider the potential of having these services run publicly by the people who know them best and for the benefit of the communities they serve.”