Leisure centre staff in Lewisham will be balloted for strike action over alleged pay issues – including not being paid owed wages.
Union chiefs have taken the first step towards strikes for 31 staff at Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) at five leisure centres across the borough.
The issues include the alleged failure to pay wages and annual leave owed and failure to pay contractual redundancy enhancements.
Unite the union also claim social enterprise GLL have changed and reduced hours and not abided by their terms and conditions.
The ballot opens on August 27 and closes on September 27.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “GLL has ‘form’ in showing themselves to be no different to any other private sector employer.
“The ‘worker-led social enterprise’ mask has slipped dramatically again. We have previously publicly stated that there is an over reliance by GLL on casual, zero hour contracts, but the company has denied this.
“Yet, when returning from furlough, Lewisham leisure staff are now being told that their regular hours will change – and the managers are treating permanent staff as though they are on zero hour contracts.”
Centres involved in the ballot are Wavelengths Leisure Centre, Forest Hill Pools, Glass Mill Leisure Centre, Ladywell Arena and The Bridge Leisure Centre.
The Bridge Leisure Centre has not reopened since the first lockdown, meaning some staff have had their hours cut.
Mr Kasab said: “The closure of the Bridge Leisure Centre was a huge blow. In addition to the impact on staff, there is the detrimental effect on the community. This includes schools and charities who relied on the services at the centre to assist and help disabled children.
“The answer is staring Lewisham council in the face – take the service back in-house – it would be the best for all concerned the council taxpayer, the public and the staff.”
Staff at Bromley Library, which is also run by GLL, went on strike for eight months in 2019 to 2020 over fears of redundancy.
The strike ended in February 2020 after a deal with no compulsory redundancies was reached.
A spokesman for GLL said: “We are dismayed that Unite has chosen to break the terms of our 2020 agreement with them – namely, that they resolve matters with us directly before balloting their members on strike action.
“We will be looking into this as a matter of urgency and if any of these claims are substantiated our intention is to resolve them immediately.
“Changes to staffing hours have been created as a consequence of the pandemic rather than by choice.
“Despite Covid’s financial and operational challenges to all leisure operators and Councils, we are totally committed to working in partnership to provide the best possible leisure service for the residents of Lewisham.”