YOGA, aerobics and Pilates instructors could down tools following nearly a decade without a pay rise from Colchester Council, union bosses have said.

Instructors who work at Leisure World, in Cowdray Avenue, and are all directly employed by the authority, are voting on whether to take strike action. 

Rates for yoga and Pilates sessions have remained fixed at £25 since 2015, while aerobics instructors are on £22.50 per session.

Unison, the UK’s largest union representing the instructors, claims council bosses refused to review the figure until last year.

After doing so they offered instructors an extra £2.50 per session, nearly £5 less per session than those employed by Tendring Council.

Gazette: Pose - a generic yoga stock imagePose - a generic yoga stock image (Image: Pixabay)
Unison rejected the offer saying it “fell a long way behind the levels paid to instructors for private training sessions”.

Instructors also say the rate “fails to recognise the long stretches of preparation they put into classes”.

The time it takes to learn and devise routines, set up, clear up and answer queries from participants after sessions, for example, means upwards of two hours’ work goes into each hour-long session, they say.

As a result, Unison says workers have been left with “no choice but to vote on strikes”.

One instructor who has worked for the council since 2016 said they feel “forgotten” knowing “everyone else in the building received a pay rise”.

UNISON Eastern area organiser Emma Aboubaker added: “Instructors are bending over backwards to provide the best service they can for people trying to get fit and healthy in Colchester. But bosses can’t stretch to more than one pay rise a decade.

“Fitness instructors provide a vital service for the city’s public health, but they’re also bringing paying residents into leisure centres. They deserve a proper pay rise.”

The latest threat of strike action comes after Colchester Council workers floated the idea of downing tools in a row over pay last year.

However, it was resolved in December and industrial action was called off when a new offer was accepted, which saw staff receive an almost £2,000 wage increase.

The council has since outlined drastic changes, however, as it looks to raise £600,000 to match the new national pay award.

Gazette: Site - Colchester Town HallSite - Colchester Town Hall (Image: Newsquest)

These include introducing an entrance fee to Hollytrees Museum for the first time, closing the Coffee Shop at Leisure World and cutting council staff.

Council "disappointed" at strike ballot

COLCHESTER Council has now said it is “disappointed” at the ballot for strike action and hopes to resolve the issue with instructors.

Council chief executive Pam Donnelly said: “We are obviously disappointed instructor employees at our sports facilities are balloting on industrial action.

“We have provided an updated pay offer to them and hope to reach a resolution that means our wellbeing services to residents are not disrupted in any way.

Gazette: Disappointed - Colchester Council chief executive Pam DonnellyDisappointed - Colchester Council chief executive Pam Donnelly (Image: Public)

“Like every resident and business in the UK, the cost-of-living crisis alongside the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, rising energy costs and the current economic climate, is placing an unprecedented pressure on local authority budgets, and Colchester City Council is no exception.”

Colchester Council has saved nearly £16 million since 2018, from its budget of £26 million.

However, it said further savings of £6.262 million are needed over the next three years, which is expected to grow with continued rising costs.

Council leader David King said previously: “The financial situation is incredibly difficult.

“We’ve already managed to identify a lot of savings and efficiencies at Colchester Council, and we’re working tirelessly to protect both staff and customers as much as we can.”

The instructors' strike ballot closes on Thursday, February 1.