‘No more cheap labour’: Parking wardens strike over low pay

Council urges contractors and staff to use Acas to resolve dispute

04 October, 2018 — By William McLennan

Source: Camden New Journal website

The picket line in Kentish Town

DOZENS of traffic wardens stopped work and picked up placards during a week-long strike that has included daily pickets outside council offices.

Massing outside Camden Council’s parking depot in Regis Road, Kentish Town, yesterday (Wednesday), the workers banged makeshift drums and chanted: “Low pay, no way.” They are calling on council parking contractor NSL to increase their hourly rate from £10 to £11.15. They have rejected an offer of £10.45 an hour.

Camden made a “surplus” of £26million from parking tickets and fines last year. It is the third time the wardens have gone on strike over pay since 2011, while nationally the rate of industrial action has fallen to a record low.

One NSL employee, who asked not to be named for fear he would be singled out for speaking publicly, said: “We are here to show our employers and Camden Council that we are not going to work for cheap. There should be no more cheap labour in these times we live in. Until we get what we want we will always come out [on strike].”

The employee added: “The price of everything is going up, but our pay is stagnant. We are not getting enough to keep up a minimum standard of living. “We are standing here today, demanding a pay rise to £11.15. The company say they can only afford 45p. It’s too low.”

The majority-black workforce have said they regularly face racist abuse and assaults from angry drivers.

Amanda Sebestyen, Holborn and St Pancras Labour Party member and Momentum supporter, delivered supplies of biscuits and oranges to the pickets yesterday morning. She said: “I’m a car driver, I give these guys plenty of work. I want them to be rewarded for the trouble they have to take with my bad parking.”

Camden Unison secretary Liz Wheatley said: “It is pretty scandalous, especially in a borough like Camden that professes to have ethical em­ployment practices and ethical procurement, that we can end up with a predominantly black, low-paid workforce forced to have to take strike action every time they want to try and get a pay increase.”

The council is proudly a London Living Wage employer. Parking wardens had an agreement to receive the London Living Wage, plus 25p. However, due to the long-running dispute, their pay has been frozen at £10 – 20p below the current London Living Wage rate, which rose in April.

Environment chief Councillor Adam Harrison said: “We urge both parties to use Acas [the arbitration body] to resolve this dispute as soon as possible.”

A spokeswoman for NSL said it had offered a three-year deal comprising a 4.5 per cent pay rise this year, “much higher than other public sector pay deals and well above the rate of inflation”.

“We regret that Unison has not chosen to accept this offer, which takes into account the increase in London living costs while remaining affordable to Camden Council,” the spokeswoman added. The company says traffic wardens are still operating.

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