Northern Ireland news

Reprieve for 140 casual jobs at Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Hall

Belfast's Waterfront Hall. Picture by Nick Patterson
Brendan Hughes

PLANS to lay off around 140 casual staff at Belfast's Waterfront and Ulster Hall have been reversed.

It follows the British government extending the furlough scheme for a month and Belfast City Council agreeing a £50,000 financial support package.

Last week the council-owned firm which runs the venues had said the workers would not be moved onto the new job support scheme which had been due to replace furlough.

But Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Hall Ltd (BWUH) said it will now avail of the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

It said in a statement: "Following the announcement about the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and in light of new funding being made available by Belfast City Council, we will avail of the support provided under CJRS in relation to our pool of casual workers.

"Once CJRS ends we anticipate the casual workers will transfer to the Job Support Scheme Closed (JSSC) or whichever scheme BWUH Ltd is eligible for at such time."

The Waterfront Hall, its conference venue ICC Belfast and the Ulster Hall have been closed to the public since March due to coronavirus restrictions.

Sinn Féin said an overall support package of £200,000 had been secured for workers in the venues as well as city council leisure centres.

GLL, which operates the council's Better gyms and leisure facilities, last month met with the council to discuss voluntary redundancies.

The social enterprise, which is believed to be seeking to cut around 40 jobs, had warned that coronavirus restrictions have forced it to close services and operate at a reduced capacity.

Sinn Féin councillor Ciaran Beattie, the party's group leader at city hall, said: "A number of GLL staff working in Belfast City Council leisure centres, who have opted for voluntary redundancies, were also being offered what they felt were inadequate packages.

"This proposal will mean that those workers will be given a voluntary redundancy package that is in line with their Belfast City Council counterparts."

People Before Profit councillor Matt Collins had criticised the lay-off plans and called for intervention from the council.

He said some of the BWUH staff at risk "have worked full-time hours for years" and it was "shocking that they were casually employed in the first place".

Alliance councillor Sian Mulholland said she was "relieved there was cross-party agreement about a package of support".

Green Party councillor Anthony Flynn welcomed the efforts to secure jobs but said it would "continue to advocate for more secure contracts for workers at BWUH".

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