Seventy mostly African migrant workers in the GMB union are in a bitter dispute over union recognition in Enfield, north London.
The dispute raises issues that will chime with workers across Britain – the pressure to work harder coming from bullying bosses demanding targets to be met at any cost.
The striking workers are parking attendants and traffic wardens who work for National Car Parks (NCP).
They held a series of three one day strikes last week and were set to take more action this week over the company’s refusal to recognise the union for pay bargaining.
More than 80 percent of the workforce are in the GMB and they voted 100 percent for the strike.
Francis, a striking union rep, told Socialist Worker, “We’re protesting for basic civil rights. Our employer is a company that doesn’t recognise our rights. They continue to abuse parking attendants through disciplinary procedures. Working for NCP is like signing your life away.”
One worker told Socialist Worker, “The problem is we put everything into our work, and just get abuse from the employers.
“At the end of the day people are being abused on duty when they issue tickets and then get told it’s their own problem.
“For instance, one worker was arrested after he was assaulted by a member of the public, who then claimed he’d assaulted him.
“He was attacked on duty, so he’s meant to be backed up by our employers.
“But management sent a supervisor to the police station to get his tickets and equipment back. They didn’t ask him how he was or how long he’d be in there, or do anything to help.
“I made a small typing error – an n instead of an m – which resulted in a disciplinary, during which a threat was directed at me, saying I’d be fired. The manager told me I would have to come in with my three children to beg him for my job back.”
Workers report high levels of intimidation in the run up to the strike. The day before the first strike, one worker who was distributing union leaflets about the dispute was physically thrown out of the company premises.
A striker told Socialist Worker how a man whose partner is expecting a baby was told by management that if he joined in the strike, they’d make life difficult for him and his child.
One worker said, “We should be treated well, but when we get injured in the street we’re not catered for. If we’re not back to work straight away they threaten dismissal. These things haven’t just happened to me, but to all of us. The bosses have no respect for us.”
“Our bonus is paid quarterly, based on a ticket count. At 10am every morning and 4pm every afternoon they phone up to check ticket counts.
“There is immense pressure if the bosses don’t think there are enough tickets issued.
“They think if we don’t get the right number according to the performance indictors then there’s something wrong, they just want the tickets issued regardless.”
According to Rob Kelsall, GMB organiser, “The dispute is 100 percent solid. Our members are determined to get union recognition, despite attempts by NCP to bully and intimidate them.”
Workers are set to strike again on Wednesday from 1 pm to 7 pm and all day on Saturday of this week.