Support Sandwell Leisure workers: No to ‘fire and rehire’

Sandwell picket line. Photo: Black Country TUSC

Sandwell picket line. Photo: Black Country TUSC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Richard Gingell, Black Country Socialist Party

On 25 June, Unison union members working for Sandwell Leisure Trust (SLT), West Midlands, organised a strike at a number of leisure centres across the borough. Their grievance is one we’ve heard too much of recently: ‘fire and rehire’.

The new contracts being imposed by the trust would see a two-year pay freeze and staff being taken out of nationally agreed terms and conditions for local government workers. This is despite the trust having maintained £4 million of reserves during the pandemic.

Socialist Party members supported the striking workers on the picket lines, which swelled with activists throughout the day.

Over three sites (Portway Lifestyle Centre, Tipton Leisure Centre and Smethwick swimming baths), strikers met a favourable public response, with many refusing to attend the centres that day in support.

Living wage

They also received a visit from Dudley Trades Union Council and from local Labour councillor Kerrie Carmichael. But will the Labour controlled-council put some real pressure on SLT to fix this dispute?

Last year, the council offered SLT an emergency payment, which was declined. The unions want these services brought back in-house to ensure a living wage for the staff.

While SLT workers are represented by both Unison and the GMB unions, allegedly the GMB leadership was unable to muster up enough support to even attempt a strike ballot. This is a true shame in the face of what is clearly an attempt at dismantling the rights workers have fought so hard for over the years.

It’s now, more than ever, that we need union leaderships to step up and truly begin to organise their members to combat these underhand tactics being brought to bear against them by unscrupulous employers.