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Unison members at Newport Live could go on strike over ongoing pay dispute

Newport Live runs leisure services in Newport, including at the Riverfront Theatre (Pic: Google)

LEISURE staff in Newport are being balloted for possible strike action in an ongoing pay dispute with their employer.

Newport Live is a charitable trust which runs leisure services on behalf of the city council, but has “refused for months to negotiate on pay”, according to the Unison trade union.

Staff received an “imposed” 3% pay rise from April, which was “significantly” below inflation, the union claimed, accusing Newport Live of “refusing to listen to the workforce”.

The April pay award was reportedly rejected by 90% of union members working at the trust during an earlier survey.

Newport Live told the Local Democracy Reporting Service it was “committed to fair practices and preserving good employment relations”, and defended its track record of pay rises.

It said a series of pay rises since April 2022 meant staff working at Newport Live since then had received a “cumulative” increase of at least 10.4% in that time.

But Peter Garland, the Unison Newport city branch secretary, said the employer had “no idea of the level of anger they’ve caused by taking their workforce for granted during a cost-of-living crisis”.

“Despite rocketing inflation and staff telling them they are struggling, [Newport Live] want to bury their heads in the sand and hope it all will go away,” he added.

Peter Garland, Unison branch secretary for Newport (Pic: Unison)

A spokesperson for Newport Live said the trust was “disappointed” to learn of the ballot on potential industrial action but respected union members’ right to do so.

The trust is “committed to implementing” the real living wage and was paying this as the minimum hourly rate “for all colleagues” in the current financial year, they added.

The spokesperson said a 3% pay rise in April 2022 had been followed by another 3% a year later, as well as at least a 4.04% rise in November 2022.

“The increases on a cumulative basis from 1 April 2022 to 1 April 2023, have resulted in a minimum pay award of 10.4%, with the highest being 19.3% for this period,” they said.

Despite those increases, Unison said Newport Live staff had resorted to money-saving measures to deal with the cost-of-living crisis.

In a union survey, workers in Newport reported petrol and food costs becoming a “struggle”, having to cut back on heating and buying brands when grocery shopping, and “rationing” gas and electricity.

One Unison member working for Newport Live – who wished to remain anonymous – said their family has “had to stop certain clubs for the kids and do not attend social events if we need to spend money”.

“We have set strict budgets for the children’s birthdays and Christmas,” they added. “We try not to use the car and have reduced our weekly shopping [by] cutting out treats.”

The ballot on possible strike action runs until September 12, but there is perhaps some hope a deal can be struck.

Mr Garland said Unison had made requests “time and again” to meet with Newport Live, but they had been “denied”.

“Even now, we appeal to Newport Live to sit down with us and hammer out a way forward that suits everyone,” he said.

The Newport Live spokesperson said the trust “has and will continue to communicate with the unions recognised at Newport Live, but are disappointed that this situation has reached this point and will continue to offer to meet with unions to resolve this situation”.