Mid Ulster Council’s leisure centre staff ‘unhappy’ they now have to pay for the pool

The entrance to the Dungannon Leisure Centre on the Killymeal Road.INTT2714-312
The entrance to the Dungannon Leisure Centre on the Killymeal Road.INTT2714-312

Leisure centre staff across Mid Ulster are said to be “unhappy” they now have to pay to use the facilities at their places of work.

The decision, which was taken by Mid Ulster District Council in March, means all council staff can pay £15 per month - deducted from their salary - to use leisure services.

Entrance to Cookstown

Entrance to Cookstown

But before this decision came into force in October, staff at Cookstown and Greenvale Leisure Centres were allowed to swim and use the gym for free, while in Dungannon it was reported they had to pay £1.

Cookstown UUP councillor Trevor Wilson brought the payment scheme up again at September’s Development Committee, asking that the charges be deferred until January 2016.

Minutes of the meeting outline how Cllr Wilson “advised that he has been receiving negative feedback from staff regarding paying full price for leisure facilities”.

And Director of Culture and Leisure, Ms Campbell, told councillors at the meeting she “was aware that staff were unhappy, but a decision was made through council to implement the fees” and this “couldn’t be changed within six months of the council making a decision”.

Olympic size swimming pool at the Greenvale Leisure Centre Magherafelt

Olympic size swimming pool at the Greenvale Leisure Centre Magherafelt

The move means that life guards working at pool sides across Mid Ulster now have to pay to stay fit for purpose, but a spokesperson for the council said “staff who must maintain lifeguard qualifications receive both classroom and pool time as part of their training”.

They also said the decision to implement the charges was taken in relation to membership of leisure facilities for all council staff, not just those working in the area’s sports centres.

The council spokesperson added: “The membership scheme was agreed in March 2015 by the council to address the different arrangements which existed in the three former councils, where some staff had free access and some discounted access.

“The new scheme has been introduced and staff are aware of the arrangements.

“As a result, staff who wish to use the council’s leisure facilities can do so by taking out membership at a discounted rate of £15 per month. “

Pool life guards are retested every two years and need to be able to swim 50m under 60secs, 100m continuously, be able to dive into deep water, tread water for 30secs and climb out of a pool unaided.