Strike may close Swindon leisure centres at weekends

Leisure centres, parks and car parks in Swindon could close if strike planned by local authority workers goes ahead.

The dispute relates to the Tory-run borough council's decision to withdraw shift allowances paid to staff required to work evenings, nights and weekends.

Councillor Fionuala Foley said the action would cause disruption and apologised to residents.

The shift allowances stopped being paid on 1 July. The first strike is due to take place on 25 and 26 September.

Ms Foley said the staff needed to make a choice between jobs in Swindon or the leisure centres closing permanently.

She claimed that out of the 747 staff affected, 209 were union members and just 43 had voted to strike.

Bob Cretchley, Unison branch secretary for Swindon, said 150 members would be involved in the action which was called to save the allowances of members who were "taking a significant drop in their income".

'Massive disruption'

Ms Foley said the authority did not yet know whether it would have to shut some leisure centres.

"We'll try and keep them running. Obviously it's the weekend they're going for to cause a massive amount of disruption to the local residents so we'll do our best.

"Leisure is currently an area that is heavily subsidised by the residents of Swindon. All of our leisure centres run at a loss and so if they close, we obviously lose more money.

"We believe the salaries and allowances for weekend working we've put forward are fair.

"We want to ensure we have fair and affordable taxes for residents and by doing that, we cannot overpay people for weekend working."

But Mr Cretchley said: "Our members are taking a significant drop in their income to the extent that many of them are just not going to be able to continue to pay their bills.

"I had one member say he is now losing £300 a month and cannot pay his mortgage."

Unison said further industrial would be taken if the dispute could not be resolved.

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