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Stood-down workers protest at Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre

Stood-down workers protest at Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre
July 15, 2021

Stood-down workers from the Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville have taken action after being stood down without pay at the beginning of the current lockdown impacting Greater Sydney.

The workers, who are members of the United Workers’ Union (UWU), have held to actions in the past week, a gathering outside the pool on Thursday 8th July and an online rally on Saturday 10th July.

At the Thursday rally, described as a 'speak out', five workers called for paid pandemic leave for all and held signs that demanded casual workers be “kept afloat”.

All staff at the Centre are understood to have been stood down without pay and those with entitlements have been asked to access their annual leave.

However a spokesperson for the protestors said "many of these are young students who do not have savings to fall back on (and) are unable to access the COVID-19 disaster payment because they are already receiving the youth allowance payment, which is not enough to live on in this city."

Owned by the Inner West Council-owned pool, the Centre is managed by Belgravia Leisure.

The UWU questioned why companies like Belgravia Leisure “are allowed to profit from something built by the community without giving anything back”.

The Centre's management is understood to have met with workers on 5th July, but the UWU described the meeting as a negotiation which was not conducted “in good faith”, citing "management’s only offer to workers were access to mental health services and 'boot camps' during the lockdown".

Saturday's online community action reportedly drew around 100 people.

The UWU has initiated a petition supporting workers’ call for paid pandemic leave as well as an open letter to City of Sydney Council to reconsider its contracts to Belgravia Leisure, which are separate to those with the Inner West Council.

Commenting on the standing down of workers, Belgravia Leisure Chief Executive, Nick Cox stated “Belgravia Leisure sympathises with all workers affected by the Government-imposed lockdowns and looks forward to re-opening our venues as soon as we are allowed to by the NSW Government.

“Unfortunately, just like every other health and recreation employer and many other NSW businesses, Belgravia has been forced to close all the facilities we manage in Greater Sydney due to the latest NSW Covid-19 lockdowns.

“We are pleased with yesterday’s announcement of the additional financial support from the state and federal governments for workers in this latest NSW Covid lockdown. We understand that from next week, the COVID-19 Disaster Payment will increase to $600 per week if a person has lost 20 or more hours of work a week or $375 if a person has lost between 8 and less than 20 hours of work a week. This support will provide workers with financial assistance equal to the support JobKeeper provided during the December quarter of 2020 and up to $200 more per fortnight than the last three months of JobKeeper.

“As we have stated consistently since this lockdown began, individual employers cannot be held responsible for financially supporting workers during these difficult times. That is the responsibility of government programs like the now expanded COVID-19 Commonwealth Disaster Payment.

“Our response to lockdowns from the beginning of the pandemic has been consistent with industry, lawful and, unfortunately, necessary. Like most employers whose employees cannot work from home, we’ve been forced to close our facilities and stand down our staff. Employees remain employed and continue to accrue service time and entitlements during lockdown.

“We’re doing everything we can to support or workers during this time. Our employees and their families have been offered access to our Employee Assistance Program, access to our home fitness program and access to our online mental health training program. We’ve been able to provide access to flexible leave arrangements including advanced leave payments and double leave at half pay for permanent employees. We are commitment to ensuring all employees have a job to return to when this latest lockdown ends, and recreation facilities are allowed to reopen.

“We know how tough this lockdown has been for our all our employees. Like them, we are looking forward to returning to work and as soon as the NSW government advises it is safe to reopen.”

The Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre is reported to be set to revert to Council management in July next year. Belgravia Leisure was awarded the contract to manage the facility by the former Marrickville Council in 2010.

The Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre is reported to be set to revert to Council management in July next year. Belgravia Leisure was awarded the contract to manage the facility by the former Marrickville Council in 2010.

Image: The UWU protest at the Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre on Thursday 8th July. Credit: Isaac Nellist.

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6th July 2021 - Majority of employees at contract managed aquatic and recreation centre across Sydney stood down without pay

5th July 2021 - Belgravia Leisure stands down Sydney workforce without pay

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27th June 2021 - Rise in Coronavirus cases sees NSW Government introduce two-week lockdown for Greater Sydney and surrounding areas

25th June 2021 - COVID lockdowns delay opening of Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Yawa Aquatic Centre

11th June 2021 - National Aquatic Industry Committee advises on conditions for swim teachers, lifeguards and instructors affected by Victoria’s lockdowns

3rd May 2021 - Aquatic Recreation Network Australia launched to support states and provide national advocacy opportunities

13th April 2021 - Union says swim teachers set up and pack up is paid work

9th October 2020 - Works completed at redeveloped Ashfield Aquatic Centre

28th July 2020 - New Ashfield Aquatic Centre expected to attract 500,000 visits a year

23rd June 2020 - Belgravia Leisure announces reopening of all Australian and New Zealand facilities

4th June 2020 - Belgravia Leisure survey reinforces focus on health and safety when more facilities reopen

21st May 2020 - Belgravia Leisure reveals roadmap to reopening of facilities as Coronavirus restrictions ease

29th July 2019 - Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre named Belgravia Leisure’s Facility of the Year

25th March 2019 - Inner West Council secures funding for redevelopment of aquatic facilities

10th July 2018 - Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre named ARI Aquatic Facility of the Year

11th December 2016 - Union launched for swimming teachers and lifeguards

11th December 2014 - Marrickville Council sues builder over $5 million of defects at Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre

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