Proposals to ‘outsource’ staff at new £35m Craigavon leisure centre deferred

Construction underway at the new leisure centre in Craigavon.
Construction underway at the new leisure centre in Craigavon.

Any plans to ‘outsource’ staff at the new £35m South Lakes Leisure Centre in Craigavon have been put on hold until a meeting is held with unions.

Unions had opposed any bid to privatise staffing at the new leisure centre and Armagh Leisure Centre.

However, unions staged a protest at Craigavon Civic Centre on Monday night following ‘last minute information’ claiming that support for an ‘in-house’ staffing model had wained in favour of privatisation.

At Monday’s meeting, a decision on the matter was deferred pending a meeting with various unions including NIPSA, Unite and the GMB union.

Kim Graham from NIPSA said unions had been led to believe that senior management would be proposing an in-house operation recommendation before the council.

The unions claim a financial presentation, made to the council, was ‘heavily influenced towards out sourcing’.

Kim said: “We believe that the information presented to the councillors is grossly misleading and does not accurately reflect the unions’ or other employers’ experiences to date of outsourcing.

“The refusal of the officers of the council to recommend the continuation of in-house leisure services to councillors, despite closely working with the unions for the past two years towards a transformed council-run in-house model, demonstrates an unacceptable abdication of responsibility and leadership, turning this key decision on how public monies are to be spent into a local government political football with a final decision which could be based on extremely challengeable and unrealistic cost savings assumptions.”

Sinn Féin Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr Paul Duffy said: “We have been engaging with the unions and leisure staff and proposed that a decision be deferred until the unions have an opportunity to present to councillors. Our position remains - this new leisure facility funded by the ratepayer should remain in council ownership and delivered by our capable and talented leisure staff.”