Lifeguards staged a walk-out at Robinson Pool last Friday in a dispute over unpaid wages, leaving children in tears after a swimming lesson was postponed at short notice.
A mother whose child was affected and who witnessed the events told the Times and Citizen: “A little girl was crying while her mother and all the parents were really cross at the lifeguards.
“We went to the children’s swimming lessons due to start at 4pm, but then all of a sudden the lifeguards marched off out of the pool. The kids were very upset.
“We heard the gym manager saying to the lifeguards: ‘This is not the way you deal with it’.
“One of the lifeguards said some of the staff were owed £2,000 [by Fusion].”
Fusion Lifestyle, an independent charity, took over eight council facilities in the area this year including the Robinson Pool on a 10-year contract after the council invited tenders from external organisations to provide leisure services on behalf of Bedford Borough Council.
In a statement it said: “We can confirm that a number of staff members started work late on Friday, April 4. We are investigating the situation to fully understand the reasons behind this action.”
The lesson eventually started at 4.20pm but an outraged parent told us: “I said to the lifeguards: ‘You cannot just go on strike’, and they said: ‘We are not on strike we are just sweeping up’ – so they were just working to rule. The lifeguards were walking around with blank faces.”
Her son, whose lesson was cancelled, said: “I was cold, I was confused at what was happening and a bit miserable.”
The mum added: “I understand that the lifeguards have genuine concerns but they shouldn’t have taken it out on little kids.
“Some of them were really upset. One woman was furious as it was her three young children’s first lesson at the pool. I am not impressed with Fusion and their general adminstration of the pool.”
A spokesman for Fusion, said: “We have contacted and apologised to all swim school members impacted by this situation.”
However, the mum said: “They said we would be compensated for the lesson but neither myself nor my husband have yet to receive even an apology as of second post, on Tuesday, April 8, or an email.”
It is claimed around £13 million will be invested into the leisure services, which the council says will save £1 million of taxpayers’ money annually.
Fusion Lifestyle is an independent registered charity whose primary objectives are to provide sport and active leisure facilities and services in the interests of social and physical welfare.
It said: “This means that all our incoming resources are used to improve and develop all our facilities and activities... and to offer services that are inclusive and accessible to all without stigma or inequity.”