Northern Ireland

Unions say no compulsory redundancies for 38 Robinson centre staff

The asbestos was found in an area of the centre not open to the public
Image caption The asbestos was found in an area of the centre not open to the public

Union representatives have said there will be no compulsory redundancies at the Robinson leisure centre in east Belfast.

They met Belfast City Council on Wednesday morning in an attempt to allay fears that a dispute over the centre could mean job losses.

The centre is currently closed following the discovery of asbestos.

A legal row over liability began as it was due to be transferred from Castlereagh to Belfast council.

Responsibility for the 38 staff who worked there also transferred to Belfast City Council.

Belfast City Council won leave for a judicial review of the transfer on Tuesday evening.

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Media captionDavy Edmont from Unite said the union received a guarantee from the chief executive of Belfast City Council

Belfast council believes its ratepayers should not take on the running of a centre which, it claims, is not fit for purpose.

Representatives from Nipsa and Unite met with the chief executive of Belfast City Council and other senior management on Wednesday.

The union representatives said they had been assured there would be no compulsory redundancies for Robinson centre staff

The unions also said staff have been given leave over Easter on full pay.

'Commitment'

Unite's regional officer Davy Edmont said: "All members of staff that were employed directly by Castlereagh council are receiving full jobs and full employment within Belfast City council.

"That's a guarantee we've received this morning from the chief executive."

Alison Morris from Nipsa said: "There's been a commitment that no staff will be made compulsorily redundant.

"All areas will be explored, not just in terms of leisure but across all the new council areas to seek to reassure these staff that they do have a future in Belfast City Council."

Meanwhile, it is understood that Belfast City Council is planning to build a new leisure centre on the site.

At a council meeting on Wednesday evening, it emerged that councillors are considering knocking down the existing centre to build a new one.

About £19m has been set aside for the project, but it is believed that it has not yet received full council approval.

Survey

In February, a survey carried out at the Robinson centre found that there was asbestos.

It is that discovery that has led to the wrangle over who should be responsible.

The Robinson leisure centre was part of Castlereagh Borough Council, which under the council changes has become merged with Lisburn to form Lisburn and Castlereagh Council.

The judge on Tuesday ruled that Belfast would not be liable for any claims prior to 1 April 2015.

He also ruled that the new Lisburn and Castlereagh super-council would be responsible for any claims of negligence prior to the handover.

The centre will stay closed until the legal wrangle is resolved.

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