Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) has formally recognised a trade union for the first time.  

The company, which recently took over Lewisham’s leisure facilities, signed a union recognition agreement with Unite.  

The agreement specifically relates to the leisure contract with Lewisham after the council cut ties with Fusion Lifestyle over the summer.  

A report from Unite last year criticised GLL’s use of zero-hour contracts and refusal to recognise trade unions.  

The agreement in Lewisham will put in place a dispute process to ensure attempts at resolution before industrial action takes place.  

Recognition in Lewisham will include “provisions for negotiation, consultation, trade union organisation and access for the trade unions to staff to encourage recruitment into the union and union organisation”, according to Unite.  

Its regional officer, Onay Kasab, said: “Local authority leisure services, whoever the providers, face dire financial circumstances.  

“It is a matter of public record that we want services in-sourced. 

“But where services are outsourced, the minimum requirement must be that trade unions are recognised. That is why we have worked so hard to come to this agreement with GLL. 

“This should now be seen as a positive example across the leisure industry, including for the likes of companies such as Fusion Lifestyle whose attitude towards Unite has been nothing short of hostile and aggressive. 

“Leisure services are going to be key in dealing with the impact of the coronavirus. Local government gyms, as opposed to commercial gyms, are not just about lifting heavy weights. They play a key wellness role, linking with health services. 

“We see this agreement as a huge step forward, achieved through years of campaigning and yet another example of the positive benefit of Unite membership.” 

A spokesperson for GLL described the company as “an award winning charitable social enterprise which cares for its staff and local communities alike”. 

 “GLL engages with unions locally where they have member representation. 

 “We confirm we recognise Unite in Lewisham and look forward to working constructively with them as we take the much-valued leisure service forward,” he said.