A STRIKE by 14 lifeguards at a borough’s swimming pools has been suspended so new talks can take place on Monday.

Their union Unite yesterday scrapped the last four days of its half-term of industrial action which had closed the two pools run by Blackburn with Darwen Council.

The lifeguards, who walked out on Tuesday in the latest of a series of strikes, returned to work yesterday morning.

The normal holiday swimming timetables were reintroduced at the pools at Blackburn Sports and Leisure Centre and Darwen Leisure Centre.

The lifeguards will remain in work over the weekend and on Monday when new talks between the council and Unite brokered by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service begin.

The dispute centres around plans by the council to regrade the lifeguards and restructure their pay, which the union says could see its members lose £3,000 a year.

The suspension has been welcomed by borough leisure boss Cllr Damian Talbot.

Unite regional officer Tanya Sweeney said: “We are meeting with the council, under the auspices of ACAS, on Monday in a bid to resolve the dispute.

"We are very concerned that the council has acted as ‘judge and jury’ in this matter.

“The lifeguard role was evaluated 10 years ago and the job has not changed, so cutting pay is unfair and unjust.

"The lifeguards would like to thank the public for all the support they have had during this dispute.

“As a gesture of goodwill, they have suspended four days of strike action so that customers who were disappointed not to have access to the pools during the strike day are able to use them this weekend.”

Cllr Talbot said: “I am pleased that some progress has been made and that the lifeguards have suspended the strike action.

“We want to see this dispute brought to a conclusion. I am hopeful that that the talks on Monday can resolve it.”

David Fairclough, the council’s human resources director, said: “We have been in ongoing talks regarding the outcome of job evaluation and the lifeguards’ roles for many months. We are pleased industrial action has been suspended so talks can continue further including talks facilitated by ACAS.

“We value the work of our lifeguards and the role they play in keeping our visitors safe when swimming.”

The regular pool timetable will resume on Monday.