Virgin, member clash over swimming lessons

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A Virgin Active gym member is considering tearing up his contract with the fitness club following a heated confrontation with management over swimming lessons.

Joshua Starkey, a member at the Virgin Active in Milpark, claims the fitness club barred him from teaching his own kids to swim at the club’s aquatic facilities.

Instead the gym has suggested his kids join the Virgin Active swimming school should they want to learn how to swim.

The gym’s swimming school, according to Starkey, is way too overpriced and adds that the majority of members cannot afford to pay the fees.

Starkey said that he and his kids had signed up for the gym hoping to make full use of the aquatic facilities.

“A while ago I had updated my account and got my two kids to join the gym with me,” Starkey said.

“Since I am a qualified swimming instructor I thought I would help my kids with a few basic lessons in the swimming pool after I had completed my spinning sessions.”

However Starkey said he was confronted by the management of the Milpark gym when they noticed that he was helping out a number of other kids at the gym.

“Many of the parents came forward to ask me if I could teach their kids to swim as they refused to send them to the gym’s swimming school.”

“The parents know that I am a qualified instructor so they felt safe with me teaching their kids.”

He agreed because he was teaching his own children and said he did not charge the parents a fee.

Starkey said the gym management became angry when they noticed the lessons.

“When the manager confronted me, he was joined by the lady offering swimming lessons.”

“They told me that I am not allowed to teach anyone to swim, or make any swimming gestures to anyone. Should members ask me, I must refer them to the swimming school.”

Starkey said the treatment he received shocked him.

“There is no bylaw that suggests I must make use of the swimming school should I want to teach my kids to swim,” said Starkey.

Starkey said he felt that the gym had commercialised his right to choose.

“As a gym contract holder I am the first contractual obligation to Virgin Active. Without us, there is no need for swimming lessons.”

“Over and above that, Virgin active is not a swimming school. They are merely a facility provider. How dare they insist that if you want to learn to swim, you must use the swimming school?”

He added that the majority of members at the gym are Indian, coloured, and black Africans and that many were unable to afford the school’s rates.

“We all know where the legacies of apartheid puts us.”

“We are not able to afford that fee for swimming lessons.

“However, Virgin Active management comfortably suggests that should you wish to learn to swim, you must pay that fee. Are they then suggesting that only white people may use the facility?”

However, Virgin Active has hit back at claims made by Starkey, saying that the fitness club encouraged members of the gym to teach their children to swim.

“Members are allowed to teach their (own) children in the fitness clubs’ pools,” said Chantel Rall, spokeswoman for Virgin Active. “We do not, however, allow members to send their children with any third parties (be it neighbours, friends or other people) to coach in our facilities.”

She added that all service providers at the Virgin Active gyms around the country were appropriately qualified.

Rall said allowing non-qualified individuals to coach members at the fitness club would expose Virgin Active to potential liability should there was to be an accident.

Saturday Star


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