Outsourced leisure giant Fusion Lifestyle with 90 sites across the UK is at the centre of a new campaign to bring services back ‘in house’ for the benefit of the public and staff in precarious employment.
Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, is also targeting Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), which has the contracts for 270 sports sites and 113 libraries; and leading gym operator Everyone Active which has contracts with 45 local authorities.
The recruitment drive by Unite comes in the week that figures showed trade union membership in the UK jumped by 91,000 in 2019 before coronavirus struck and has been accelerating since the lockdown, as workers realise that unions are their last line of defence against unscrupulous bosses.
Unite said that Fusion Lifestyle, with 3,000 employees and local government contracts including Bedford, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark, has not been ‘playing by the rules’.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “We have been contacted by staff at Fusion Lifestyle who have been excluded from the furlough scheme by the company – and have been left with no money and no job.
“The union had also heard from staff who were instructed to clean the gyms without any personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Unite has written to the company demanding to see a full breakdown of its current financial position – and has not yet received a response.
“The company claims to be a charity – but there is nothing charitable about the way that they treat staff. We believe that those who have been excluded from the furlough scheme was because they raised legitimate safety concerns.
“This treatment is not an isolated incident – online customer and employee reviews paint a picture of a poor employer and an inadequate service provider.
“It is now time for those local authorities with Fusion contracts to demand that the company treats staff with fairness, decency and respect – and travel the extra mile to resolve current issues.
“What we have found in recent years is that many employees working for these outsourced leisure giants have precarious employment conditions with the use of zero-hours’ contracts being widespread. We believe exploitation of workers is rife.
“It is a young workforce, on the whole, who would benefit from trade union membership – and our campaign dovetails neatly with the rise in union membership in recent times, as workers realise that unions are the last line of defence against unscrupulous bosses ‘slicing and dicing’ pay and employment conditions.
“More generally, Unite believes that leisure services and libraries would offer better all-round value if they were taken back in-house by councils.
“There are six reasons why ‘in-house’ operations are preferable – they are cheaper and more efficient with greater democratic accountability. It also allows councils to implement cross service strategies. Pay and conditions for staff are better, as is the health & safety regime.”