Gym jobs on the line as urgent talks continue

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Club Physical gym members seen here protesting outside one of the Jolt Fitness branches. Photo / Supplied
Club Physical gym members seen here protesting outside one of the Jolt Fitness branches. Photo / Supplied

Two Auckland gym owners are still locked in urgent negotiations to resolve a month-long dispute which has left a number of jobs on the line.

Club Physical owner Paul Richards said it looked "promising" that he would be moving back into three gyms - which were rebranded by a franchise owner last month - by early next week.

A number of "sticking points" were preventing a resolution though, he said.

Stuart Holder, who owned Club Physical gym franchises in Three Kings, Botany and Westgate, suddenly rebranded the clubs as "Jolt Fitness" without warning on February 8.

Richards, who founded Club Physical in 1981, applied to the High Court for an injunction to stop Jolt Fitness from operating, claiming Holder had breached the franchise agreements.

High Court Judge Helen Winkelmann granted the injunction but has given Jolt Fitness until next Monday before it has to close its doors.

Richards said today he was negotiating with Holder, though their lawyers, to take over the premises and have the three branches up and running again as Club Physical gyms.

"Whether that's Monday or Tuesday we don't know, but we're budgeting for early in the week."

Jolt Fitness said in a statement it was "co-operating fully" with Club Physical to come to an agreement regarding the three clubs.

"Certain matters will need to be progressed in order for an agreement to be reached."

A major point of contention appears to be around which staff will keep working at the clubs, leaving a number of jobs up in the air.

Richards said he was holding interviews tomorrow for about 30 positions, 10 at each gym.

He wants to give the current Jolt Fitness staff a shot at those positions but said he was being refused access to interview them.

"That seems to be a sticking point at the moment. They still have to agree to us interviewing those people.

"This is a relationship business and we want to know those people have got a heart for what we're doing."

The jobs are being advertised on the company's Facebook page and on Trade Me.

Richards also said he wants to reinstate 19 trainers - who ran classes like zumba, pilates and yoga - who lost their jobs in the February 8 rebrand.

Another issue is whether Richards will take over the Jolt Fitness equipment.

"We're still waiting on a list of equipment," he said. "That hasn't been supplied yet and we need it so we can decide whether we'll buy it off them."

Prices for the equipment would have to be agreed on but new gear for all three gyms had been sourced if needed, he said.

"We have several options - some USA and some NZ-based. There is also the option to purchase existing equipment but as yet Jolt haven't given a price."

Richards said meetings with landlords at all three premises to renegotiate lease agreements were going well.

"It all looks positive but I'm not jumping around celebrating because it's still hard work."

Holder's controversial rebrand of the three gyms last month came completely out of the blue for members, staff and Richards.

Staff at the Three Kings, Botany and Westgate gyms were fitted with new uniforms, new classes were put in place, and instructors arriving up to take their regular classes were turned away.

A future court date for a full decision on the matter has not been set.

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