Northern Ireland

Belfast leisure centres: Council defers outsourcing move

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Media captionThe Unite and Nipsa unions have previously held protests over the plans

Belfast City Council has deferred a final decision on outsourcing the operation of its leisure centres.

At a meeting on Monday, it agreed to give the trade unions £10,000 to explore the possibility of in-house management.

They have been given six weeks to work on an alternative plan.

Unions protested outside the meeting. They fear outsourcing would lead to redundancies and changes to hours and conditions for 300 centre workers.

Speaking on BBC NI's Good Morning Ulster, Bumper Graham from the trade union, Nipsa, said: "This gives us a chance, albeit a slim one, to try to keep the delivery of our leisure services within the public sector."

"The analogy I can think of is that the football season is almost upon you, they suddenly decide they need another team in the league and they give them a very limited transfer budget.

"The trade unions are in a bit of a position like a Barnsley or a Brentford against the Chelseas and the Manchester Citys on this one. We will be doing our best to try to ensure that our bid is successful."

Mr Graham said the £10,000 would be used to pay advisers to help them devise a plan in the best interests of staff while, at the same time, modernising the leisure services.

Last month, a council committee voted in favour of outsourcing the operation of city leisure centres by a margin of 10 to six.

The vote paved the way for major change that would see up to 300 leisure centre staff move to a new employer.

Ten leisure centres are currently operated by the council in the city.

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