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High Life Highland contract row put on hold due to coronavirus

By Staff Reporter

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Inverness Leisure.. Fitness and leisure centre entrance......Inverness Leisure locator..Picture: SPP. Image No. ...
Inverness Leisure.. Fitness and leisure centre entrance......Inverness Leisure locator..Picture: SPP. Image No. ...

A contract dispute at one of the largest employers in the Highlands has been put on hold due to coronavirus.

High Life Highland (HLH) had tabled a plan to offer all new employees starting from April 1 this year different terms and conditions from current staff.

It is understood Highland Council’s arms-length leisure services provider would offer new workers none of the pay enhancements available to current staff.

HLH has had almost £4.3 million in cuts to its budget since 2016 with further budget pressures of £1.46 million expected and said changes to contract terms would offer it “stability” as it sought to take a “prudent and robust approach to financial management”.

A spokesman for the organisation said the proposals remain on the table, but events have overtaken it.

Recruitment is currently frozen, he said, adding: “Our priority is firmly focused on making sure the charity is following the latest guidelines and advice on Covid-19 to protect our employees, their families and our customers.

“Our focus is always to maintain well-paid, secure employment for our whole workforce and we will continue to work with unions in a positive and constructive manner to support our staff at this very difficult time.”

Paul Macpherson, convener for the GMB’s Highland Council branch, said that if and when the contract changes are revived they could be challenged.

“When you look at equal pay – take Inverness Leisure Centre as an example – you could have a member of staff who is male and one who is female.

“They both work in the canteen doing the same job, the same hours, the same job description, except because the male employee has been there for longer he is getting paid more than his female counterpart. I have taken legal advice on this and this has the potential to be legally challenged.

“Another example would be seasonal workers like Highland Folk Museum. They are deemed to be seasonal but it is the same staff who come back year after year. So there is another potential legal argument in that they are seen as continuing employees.”

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