The threat of strike action hangs over Neath Port Talbot leisure centres after senior managers at Celtic Leisure told staff they wish to break away from the way pay increases have been agreed for the last 16 years.
Executives have said staff – including lifeguards; instructors; supervisors; clerical staff and others, must agree the change otherwise they will be sacked and re-engaged on lesser contracts.
Outraged leisure staff organised by public services union, UNISON Cymru Wales, have voted by 99 per cent in favour of holding a ballot for strike action.
UNISON representatives are due to meet Celtic Leisure today (Thursday) and they will demand the threat to dismiss and re-engage be withdrawn to allow for meaningful negotiations to take place.
The trade union says Celtic Leisure’s triggering of the legal 45-day notice period that contracts will be ripped up is an affront to hardworking staff. The notice period was activated by the employer after just the second meeting between the parties.
Mark Fisher, UNISON Neath Port Talbot County branch chair said,
“The company wants to bully staff rather than negotiate. Telling leisure workers if they don’t agree they will be sacked and re-engaged on poorer contracts in 45 days is not the behaviour of a professional employer. They must withdraw this threat and the 45 day notice period.
“UNISON wants the council to intervene in this dispute. The council pays approximately £1.5 million subsidy to Celtic Leisure to run their facilities, which include council-owned buildings and the council has signed up to the Welsh Government’s Code of Practice Ethical Employment in Supply Chains. NPT County Borough council should explore all options to return the leisure services back in-house where the council can protect jobs, terms and conditions, and also bring income into the council.”
Jane Gebbie UNISON Neath Port Talbot County branch secretary said,
“If Celtic Leisure staff are forced onto weaker contracts they will have less money to spend in local shops and this will impact on the local economy.
“Many employees earn just £9 per hour. They and their families can’t afford a pay cut. This is a betrayal of their hard work and loyalty over the years. Celtic Leisure must rethink their position and re-engage with the trade unions to avoid what would be a lengthy period of industrial action.”
Notes for editors
Celtic Leisure has provided leisure services under contract to Neath Port Talbot council since 2003.
For the last 16 years it has abided by the UK national agreements negotiated between employers and unions as part of the NJC settlements which cover all local government workers.
On 17 September Celtic Leisure gave notice it wished to cease implementation of nationally negotiated NJC pay awards and gave notice the 45 day period of collective consultation had started – that if agreement is not reached, it would terminate employees’ current contracts and offer re-engagement on new contracts.
Mark Fisher, branch chair 07971 25 51 30
Jane Gebbie, branch secretary 07508 64 30 52
Alastair Gittins, UNISON press officer 07816 53 83 97