Yoga teachers pose strike threat at Colchester Council, warns UNISON

Yoga, aerobics and Pilates instructors at Colchester City Council are voting on strike action after nearly a decade without a pay rise, says UNISON today.

The Leisure World instructors are all directly employed by the council but their pay is determined differently to the scales used for other staff at the local authority.

UNISON says inflexible bosses have kept yoga and Pilates rates at £25 per-session since 2015, refusing to even review this figure until last year.

When the council did finally assess pay in August 2023, senior managers offered no rise at all, says UNISON.

Aerobics instructors are on £22.50 per session. Following the review, they rejected an offer of an extra £2.50, saying it fell a long way behind the levels paid to instructors for private training sessions, and was still nearly £5 lower than neighbouring Tendring Council, says UNISON.

Instructors say the rate fails to recognise the long stretches of preparation they put into classes. They say the time it takes to learn and devise routines, set up, clear up and answer queries from participants after sessions, means upwards of two hours’ work goes into each hour-long session.

Workers have been left with no choice but to vote on strikes, says UNISON.

Yoga instructor Arlene, who has worked for Colchester Council since 2016, said: “It’s a wonderful community at Leisure World and the people taking classes are so supportive of each other.

“But I don’t even reach the minimum wage for the classes I teach, with all the preparation that goes into them.

“It doesn’t feel like we’re even considered to be working for the council. They’ve never increased the market rate. Everyone else in the building gets a pay rise but we’re forgotten.”

UNISON Eastern area organiser Emma Aboubaker said: “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.”