An estimated 2,000 staff on zero hours contracts have been shed during the pandemic by controversial leisure services giant Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) reinforcing the case for the gyms, swimming pools and sports halls it operates to be taken back under local authority control.

The call has come from Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union, which claims that the more than 500 jobs that GLL has cut since last March are just the permanent posts and does not take into account the 2,000 workers on zero hours contracts who have been told there is no longer work for them.

Unite said that, instead of authorities bailing out GLL with council taxpayers’ cash, according to media reports, the money could be better used by councils ‘taking back control’ of GLL’s 230 leisure facilities across the UK.

Unite said that an example of GLL’s continuing poor stewardship is the closure of The Bridge leisure centre by Lewisham councillors, with no consultation with Unite from either the council or GLL about the fate of its members working there.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Instead of GLL hawking the begging bowl around cash-strapped local councils asking them to prop up its flawed business model, council bosses should instigate a programme ‘to take back control’ of their leisure centres.

“Such a move makes sound economic sense as you don’t have to factor in the ‘profits’ for GLL, a so-called social enterprise. You would also increase employment security for the 10,500 staff that GLL currently has on furlough on 80 per cent wages.

“We believe that GLL has played fast-and-loose with the number of job losses that have occurred since last March – it says it has axed more than 500 permanent staff. We have it on good authority that, in addition, an estimated 2,000 workers on zero hours contracts were just told: ‘There is no work, go away’.

“What happened to the Bridge leisure centre in Sydenham is indicative of the whole sorry GLL saga. The decision to close it was taken in secret by Lewisham councillors behind closed doors, with no consultation with Unite as the legitimate trade union representing our members. 

“We believe that once the lockdown restrictions are eased later this year the public using GLL swimming pools, gyms and leisure centres across the UK would be better served if they were run by local authorities directly accountable to their electorates.

“This was the tried and tested way before this obsession with outsourcing began.”


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

Please note the numbers above are for journalists’ enquiries only.

Email: [email protected]

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.