Win! Unions defeat fire-and-rehire in Sandwell

Leisure workers in Sandwell are celebrating after their employer, the Sandwell Leisure Trust, announced it will return the workers to national pay, terms and conditions.

The board of the trust announced the decision on Friday. It reverses the fire and rehire of staff that took place back in March 2021.

GMB, UNISON and Unite had been in dispute with the trust for 20 months over the fire and rehire policy. This involved ongoing negotiations with the employer, taking strike action, direct lobbying of councillors, a demonstration outside the new Commonwealth Games Aquatic Centre and a lobby of Sandwell council.

In February, Sandwell metropolitan council announced that it would be ending its contract with the trust and finding a new way forward for the facilities.

However, as the council continued to explore ways forward, UNISON members balloted again, specifically over pay, and took strike action last week, alongside colleagues from other unions.

Sandwell UNISON branch secretary Tony Barnsley said: “This decision is great news for all the staff working at Sandwell Leisure Trust. It is the culmination of the hard work and dedication by UNISON at a branch and regional level.”

Mr Barnsley noted that the union had “combined an industrial strategy with a political strategy from day one to win. This helped give UNISON members the confidence to keep fighting for 20 long months.

“Congratulations to them and all that took part in the strike action on 10 May, including the other unions.”

UNISON regional organiser Louise Dalton also welcomed the move, adding that the decision safeguards and protects employee terms, conditions and pay moving forward.

She said: “We also need to thank those in the wider Labour movement who gave solidarity through donations, by leafletting councillors or visiting picket lines. It all helped and was greatly appreciated. The support from Labour councillors was also welcome in helping settle the dispute.”

Darren James from GMB Sandwell said: “This is a big win for GMB members in Leisure facilities across Sandwell. After months of campaigning, we’ve shown what we can do when we fight and stand together.

“Our strike saw GMB members join other unions in delivering a clear and unmissable message to Sandwell Leisure Trust Management; our members demand fairness at work.

“GMB won’t stand by as employers undermine the hard won rights of our members at work. Join GMB and get us on your side today”.

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