The Committee was reminded that the Standards and Business Committee, at its meeting on 23rd August, had agreed to adopt the following motion, which had been proposed by Councillor Ferguson and seconded by Councillor Michael Collins:
“This Council recognises the importance of collective bargaining in the workplace and the central role of trade unions to this process, as representative voices for workers. Moreover, in a period where very many workers are opting to take industrial action, the Council recognises the right of workers to do so, and the role it can play in winning much needed pay increases during a cost-of-living crisis and while inflation continues to rise.
The Council notes that there are ongoing issues in Council leisure centres across our city, which workers and their trade unions have been attempting to resolve. The Council also notes, with disappointment, that GLL does not officially recognise trade unions in Council leisure facilities, denying workers the ability to collectively bargain effectively.
This Council agrees that GLL should officially recognise trade unions in Belfast City Council leisure centres and will write to the leadership of the organisation to urge it to do so.
The Chief Executive of the Council will also convene a meeting with the relevant trade unions to hear directly about the issues facing workers in our leisure centres and commit to address them with GLL.”
The Chief Executive informed the Committee that a response had been received from Mr. G. Kirk, Senior Regional Director of GLL.
Mr. Kirk had begun by explaining that, as a worker owned, charitable social enterprise with an elected worker board, the interests of its people were represented at the highest level within the company. The nature of GLL’S business meant that it was organised primarily on a partnership basis and the company had a good record of working closely with Trades Unions in these local environments. He had highlighted the fact that the Trades Union forum in Belfast worked particularly well, with both GLL’s management and the Trades Unions being able to raise issues and discuss collectively, in order to reach a favourable conclusion for both parties. This arrangement had worked very well for the past seven years and had created very strong partnership working and outputs for staff under this model. GLL did not, therefore, see any reason for this to change.
Mr. Kirk had gone on to state that there was strong evidence in the outputs across the City, within staffing teams, that reinforced how successful the social enterprise partnership between the Council and GLL had been. There had been over 200 GLL promotions in recent years, which demonstrated an inward focus on staff and excellent delivery of learning and development opportunities. All of GLL’s staff had received an average 4% pay increase in April 2022, in recognition of the current cost-of-living challenges which many faced. In partnership with the Council, there had been seventeen leisure employment academies, resulting in over 100 local people gaining training and then employment within leisure centres. Alongside this, GLL had employed six graduates for its successful Trainee Manager programme, thereby ensuring succession planning for its future leisure leaders. It had also, twelve months ago, opened a customer service centre in Belfast, which had created 60 new jobs for local people. A further 25 new staff would be employed when the Templemore Baths opened in October, 2022.
He had added that GLL noted that, while at times there could be challenges, there was a healthy partnership created through the Trades Union forum, allowing items to be resolved through collaborative working. He had concluded by stating that GLL looked forward to future staffing success in the year ahead and would address any issues that arose from the planned meetings.
After discussion, it was
Moved by Councillor Ferguson,
Seconded by Councillor Heading
That the Committee agrees that a further letter be forwarded to GLL:
i. expressing its dissatisfaction at the company’s decision not to recognise Trades Unions, given the issues which workers are facing currently;
ii. emphasising the fact that the ability to have their Trades Union recognised is an important right for workers; and
iii. asking the company to reconsider its decision not to recognise Trades Unions, given the image which this sends to staff and the wider public on GLL’s views on workers’ rights in the workplace.
On a vote, thirteen Members voted for the proposal and five against and it was declared carried.