Unions in protest rally call

Unions have united to protest at any attempt to privatise leisure services in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area
Unions have united to protest at any attempt to privatise leisure services in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area

A protest has been planned for Craigavon Civic Centre over possible outsouring of leisure services by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council.

In a united front, three unions representing workers across council services have threatened industrial action over any plans to privatise leisure services.

In a joint statement the GMB, UNITE and NIPSA claim £3.2m of ratepayers money has been wasted on consultants which they further claim threatens ‘a possible 14% rates hike post-election’.

The unions claimed that at a recent meeting the DUP and Ulster Unionists recommend a private enterprise company ‘not only run the new South Lakes Project Leisure centre but all indoor leisure services’.

“We welcome the fact that independent Unionist councillors and those of the other parties voted in favour of an in-house management model.

“All parties are well aware that an offer has been on the table from the unions, for more than two years now, to work collaboratively to transform the leisure service but leave it under full council control but they chose reject this option”

They claim more than £100k of rate payers money has been spent on management consultants.

“This colossal waste of ratepayers money could have been avoided entirely if the already highly paid ABC council management team had done their jobs and engaged with unions directly to improve the leisure services.

“Sadly, their decision to outsource their own management responsibilities to consultants is only part of a wider trend in the council: on the basis of publicly available documents and FOI requests, more than £3.2m has been spent on private consultants for work that could and should have been done by council themselves.

“We estimate that if this situation continues, rates in the borough could rise by up to 14 % after the election.

“Outsourcing this service will affect everyone – both service users and employees,” they said. “The experience of outsourcing elsewhere confirms the rule that users end up paying a lot more to access services.”

“The unions are calling a protest outside the civic centre Craigavon starting 5.30pm on Monday 25th February to coincide with the consideration of this recommendation,” said the joint union statement.

“We are calling on all ratepayers to join us in a demonstration of people-power so as to send the strongest possible signal that, with only weeks to local election day, the electorate expect their councillors to ensure public services remain public and subject to democratic accountability and control.”

When ABC Council was asked to comment, their response was: “The business of the meeting was confidential so we would not be in a position to comment.”