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Update: Further industrial action planned at Blackburn and Darwen leisure centres

Published Friday 14 February 2020 at 17:48

Blackburn with Darwen Council is disappointed to learn that Unite-member lifeguards are set to continue industrial action next week during half-term.

This comes despite the Council being in continuous talks with the union – offering a range of packages of financial support and the opportunity to refer the review to an independent assessor (ACAS).

The first day of the latest round of strikes will take place on Tuesday, February 18 and will run continuously until Monday, February 24, 2020 – forcing closure of the two pools during half-term.  Normal pool programmes will be in place for both pools from Tuesday, February, 25, 2020 onwards.

David Fairclough, Director for HR, Legal and Governance, said:

“We have been in ongoing talks regarding the outcome of job evaluation and the lifeguards’ roles for many months.

It’s really disappointing that despite our best efforts, we have not been able to resolve the issue and avoid further strike action which impacts on staff and also our residents.

It’s important to stress that this is not a money saving exercise.

The re-grading comes following a review applied as part of a nationally agreed scheme, one which Unite the Union supports.

The Council must comply with Equal Pay Legislation. The scheme, which sets the pay of staff, ensures all council employees are paid fairly with others in the Council and over time assessments may be reviewed in the interest of continued fairness for all council employees.”

Mr Fairclough added:

“We value all of our staff, the work of our lifeguards and the role they play in keeping our visitors safe when swimming at our pools.

We also understand their concerns over the re-grading and as long ago as September last year we offered to refer the decision to ACAS to be reviewed by an independent adjudicator. The union has consistently rejected this offer.

The lifeguard role was re-evaluated in Autumn 2018 following a restructure in Leisure Services.

As part of the process, the Council has also undertaken a benchmarking exercise to review what neighbouring authorities pay. The outcome, resulted in the role being adjusted to one grade lower than the previous assessment, but they would still remain in the top 5% of highest paid lifeguards in the country.

The lifeguards are currently receiving temporary protection arrangements, and therefore it will be May 2021 before they see the full impact of these changes to their pay – which would mean they would be paid up to £10.34 compared to between £10.54 and £11.88 per hour previously.

Mr Fairclough said:

“We’d like to apologise for any inconvenience this strike action will cause – this is not the outcome we want for our staff and our residents.”

The Council has been engaged in ongoing discussions with Unite about the outcome of the grading review, which the union itself accepts is a consequence of the agreed job evaluation scheme, but their members remain unhappy with the changes.

The Council has also been able to recruit to lifeguard roles at the new salary level, continuing to appoint to a number of vacant roles during the duration of this dispute, given the competitiveness of the new salary when compared with others elsewhere.

In January, there was an initial six days of industrial action.

For latest updates, please check Blackburn Leisure Centre and Darwen Leisure Centre’s Facebook pages.

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