Sandwell Leisure Trust Workers Strike Back

June 27, 2021

On the 25th of June 2021 Unison members working for Sandwell Leisure Trust organised a strike at a number of leisure centres across the borough. Their grievance was one we’ve heard too much over the last 6 months: fire and re-hire. 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 £4m of reserves during the pandemic! In solidarity, a number of Socialist Party members made their way down to the strikes with supplies and support for the striking workers.

The pickets but grew with impassioned activists throughout the day. Over three sites (Portway Lifestyle Centre, Tipton Leisure Centre and Smethwick Swimming Baths), workers took up their placards and were met with a favourable public response, with many of them refusing to attend the centres that day in support.

They also received a visit from Dudley TUC and Labour Councillor Kerrie Carmichael. Which is convenient because the Labour controlled Council for this area could put some real pressure on fixing this dispute – but will they? Last year the council offered SLT an emergency payment which was declined, but 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, allegedly the GMB leadership were unable to muster up enough support to even attempt a ballot to strike of their own, a true shame in the face of what is clearly an attempt at dismantling the rights we’ve fought so hard for over the years. It’s now more than ever that we need union leadership to step up and truly begin to organise for their members to combat these underhanded tactics being brought to bear against them by unscrupulous employers. Unison made fantastic headway in this fight on Friday, but this ugly chapter in our history is far from over.