Croydon’s leisure centres face the prospect of closure on Thursday and Friday (18/19 September) when nearly 50 staff strike in the continuing dispute over cost cutting of staff pay by their private sector employer.
The 48 recreation assistants, and fitness and swimming instructors – members of Unite, the country’s largest union – are taking strike action for 48 hours from 00.01 on Thursday against Fusion Leisure, the company awarded the contract to run the five leisure centres in the borough. This follows-on from a successful 24-hour strike on 10 July.
On Friday, workers will be supplying council staff - with breakfast ‘goodies’ - coffee, cereal bar and Unite ‘freebies’ – as they go into work at the council offices at Bernard Weatherill House, 8 Mint Walk, Croydon CR0 1EA between 08.00-10.00.
This demo is designed to highlight the poor pay in the leisure industry, while supporting the national local government pay campaign for a £1-an-hour pay rise. Next month sees the national minimum wage of £6.31 an hour overtake the lowest local government pay rates.
Fusion also has the contract with Southwark council to run the borough’s leisure centres. During the strike period, Unite will be organising protests at the Southwark sites to raise the profile of concerns about the firm.
Unite said that the company is saving money by employing a ‘multi-tier’ workforce. This means that workers doing exactly the same job are paid at varying rates and have different basic terms and conditions.
This is despite the fact that when Croydon borough council awarded the contract in 2007 to Fusion Leisure it was on the basis of a single tier work force.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: "We are disappointed that, despite committing to providing proposals to deal with our concerns about the multi-tier workforce, where staff doing the same job are on wildly varying pay and conditions, the employer has failed to even make contact with the union.
“We have made clear we are prepared to negotiate - the company clearly is not.
"More widely, the leisure industry pays some appallingly low wages, uses zero hour contracts and now is leading the way in not passing on pay awards to contracted out staff.
"Unite has committed to taking the bosses on this industry and winning respect and dignity at work for our members.
“We call on Croydon council to intervene and tell Fusion to start treating its workers with fairness, not contempt.”
Unite is preparing a London-wide campaign in defence of leisure workers claiming that in company after company the same poor employment practises exist.
The union points to Greenwich Leisure, which runs a number of leisure centres across the capital and uses zero hour contracts for two thirds of its staff – yet the company claims to be a ‘social enterprise’. Unite members at Greenwich Leisure will also be balloted for strike action on these issues – the ballot starts on 22 September and the result is due to be known on 7 October.
For further information please contact Unite regional officer Onay Kasab on 07771 818637 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.