'Goodwill gesture'

Blackburn lifeguards and Harrods security workers both suspend strike action for talks

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Unite announced the suspension of two separate strikes on Friday (February 21) to allow for further talks.


Lifeguards at Blackburn and Darwen leisure centres have suspended strike action this weekend in the dispute over cutting their wages by up to £3,000-a-year as ‘a goodwill gesture’ before talks on Monday (February 24).


The 14 lifeguards, employed by Blackburn and Darwen borough council, suspended four days of strike action, due to have started today (Friday 21 February) and end on Monday, prior to talks brokered by the conciliation service Acas.


The dispute centres on a decision which will see the lifeguards employed on a lower grade which will result in an up to £3,000-a-year pay loss from 2021 – and follows a job evaluation process and a ‘flawed’ appeals hearing.


Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union which represents the lifeguards, was critical of the appeals process and said the council was acting as ‘judge and jury’ in slashing the lifeguards’ pay.


The talks follow nine days of strike action since the new year by the lifeguards who are responsible for the safety of people in the swimming pools at Blackburn Sports and Leisure Centre and Darwen Leisure Centre.


Unite regional officer Tanya Sweeney said,  “We are meeting with the council, under the auspices of Acas, on Monday in a bid to resolve the dispute. We are very concerned that the council has acted as ‘judge and jury’ in this matter.


“The lifeguard role was evaluated 10 years ago and the job has not changed, so cutting pay is unfair and unjust,” she added.“The lifeguards would like to thank the public for all the support they have had during this dispute.


“As a gesture of goodwill, they have suspended four days of strike action from today so that customers, who were disappointed not to have access to the pools during the strike days, are able to use them this weekend.”


Meanwhile, strike action by security officers and CCTV operators at the iconic Harrods store in Knightsbridge, London, has been suspended following renewed talks with the company.


Unite is recommending members accept a new pay offer tabled by Harrods, which the union said was reached following ‘constructive negotiations and hard work’ by both sides.


Unite members will be balloted on the offer next week. The details of the offer are confidential.


Planned strike action for tomorrow (February 22), Wednesday , February 26 and Saturday, February 29 has now been cancelled, while two other strikes set for March have been suspended pending the outcome of the ballot.


Unite regional officer Balvinder Bir said, “This offer is a positive development and came about because of constructive negotiations and hard work by both the union and Harrods.


“Unite is recommending that our members accept the offer and strike action has now been suspended to allow a ballot to take place. As this is an ongoing process, Unite will not be making any further comments at this time.”

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