Bury leisure staff at risk of redundancy after plans for 'digital move'
Staff at borough leisure centres have shared their fears over losing their jobs after the council released its "digital first" plans.
After an announcement that Castle Leisure Centre and the facilities in Ramsbottom and Radcliffe will be introducing self-service kiosks and automated gates, proposals have been put forward to axe receptionist and cashier jobs.
Staff and members have shared their fears with some saying they prefer the current system and that older members look forward to their chats with workers when they arrive.
Following the concerns being raised, the council has confirmed that if the proposals are approved, redundancies will be made but they will try to "redeploy displaced staff".
Read more: 'Digital first' move for Bury leisure centres after queueing complaints
A council spokesperson said: “The leisure service is going through a major transformation programme to modernise and improve the customer experience.
“As part of the changes, there are proposals to disestablish the posts of receptionist/cashier at the leisure centres.
“A formal consultation exercise is underway, and no decisions will be made until the consultation process has been completed.
“If the proposals are eventually approved by the council and the posts are disestablished, every effort will be made to redeploy displaced staff into alternative roles within the council.”
One staff member, who did not wish to be named, said they had already been told they were being made redundant alongside all other leisure centre receptionists.
The decision to go digital is said to have been made following customer complaints about queues at the reception desks and over the phone.
As a result, requests were made to improve website functionality, improve the leisure centres' computer system, bring in an app as well as add self-service kiosks in the foyer.
Leisure members will also receive a radio frequency identification wristband which will give them access to the leisure centre through the automated gates.
Several members have also shared their upset following the announcement.
One member, who did not wish to be named, said: “The reception team are fabulous and I hope we will see them in other roles in the centre after their redundancy.
“They give a friendly bright welcome to us all, know us and are really helpful on the phone too.”
They added that they never have issues with the current booking systems or queues and that the changes would be better if it meant replacing and improving the diving boards.
Various centre users have said they were puzzled about where complaints had originated as they had never received a questionnaire asking for opinions or had problems with the services themself.
A member said: “As regular users of Castle Leisure Centre we are happy with the way it currently works, none of the people we have talked to have ever seen a queue.
“When they had self-service kiosks some years ago nobody used them and they were broken more than they worked and so they were removed.
“I would not be surprised that in a few months, it is all broken and they have to reemploy the reception staff.
“Instead of wasting money, spend it on fixing the broken equipment in the gym, reopen the café and the library and make the leisure centre a proper community resource fit for everyone and not just those who are technologically competent.”
Despite the change, Cllr Tamoor Tariq, cabinet member for adult care, health and wellbeing at the council, said that “digital first" does not mean "digital only".
He said: “We aim to provide high quality leisure services in a modern way that is convenient for our many visitors.
“Like many council services, we are moving to digital wherever appropriate.
"But this will not exclude those who prefer the current arrangements.
“Non-members will be able to use the self-service kiosks in the foyer areas or seek help from a member of staff if they wish to pay in cash.
“We have listened to this feedback and are investing in the future of our leisure centres in line with customer expectations.”
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