Traffic wardens in Camden, north London, showed their determination to win decent pay as they struck for three days last week. Their rage was aimed at NSL, the private contractor that employs them.
“NSL have exploited us to the maximum,” striker Omar told Socialist Worker. “But today we are the majority. We will fight them till the end.”
The 160 parking workers, members of the Unison union, earn just £8.09 an hour. They are fighting for a pay rise of £2.50. Bosses have offered a measly 21p.
“It’s insulting,” Maya told Socialist Worker. “We’re being paid a pittance—we’ve had an 82p rise in three years. We’re worth more than that.” NSL’s highest paid director gets £440,000 a year—something many workers’ placards pointed out.
On the Crowndale Road picket line near Mornington Crescent, Mohamed explained what it’s like trying to live on his wages. “We have to live quite centrally in London,” he said.
“But we’re not getting a decent wage for London life. My major costs are food, transport, rent—the basics. We’re not even counting anything extra, just enough to survive.”
The workers do 42.5 hours of demanding work every week. Mohamed said, “Every day we walk maybe 20 miles. Whether it rains or it’s really hot. The abuse you get can be unbearable. People say all sorts of things. Sometimes racist things. Sometimes they get out and threaten you.
“We know we’re not much loved. We’re selling a product no one wants to buy. But we do a good job. We keep the flow of traffic moving.”
He added that even though traffic wardens are generally not popular, the public had been supportive—“and not just because they can park where they want”.
After solid pickets, workers and supporters held a 100-strong rally outside Camden town hall on Thursday lunchtime. Cars honked in support as they passed. The workers struck for three days, from Thursday to Saturday. It was an escalation of last month’s two-day walkout.
Nadia, on the Regis Road picket, said getting this kind of action had been “a long struggle”. She said the bosses had been taking advantage of the fact that many of the traffic wardens are migrant workers.
“It is a hard place to organise in,” she said. “But with the help of the union we have overcome that. It has taken years to build up the union but we have done it.”
Last Friday the workers held a mass meeting and voted for a four-day strike “at the earliest opportunity.” Tunde added, “This struggle is ours. We know we’re going to win.”
NSL’s shabby history
NSL has a history of poor treatment of workers and trade unionists. Socialist Worker exposed NSL as setting workers a minimum of tickets to issue per day in Ealing. Workers who failed to meet this were disciplined, some have even been sacked.
An employment tribunal found that Hakim Berkani was sacked by NSL for his union activity. This included complaints about cockroaches in the staff kitchen.
Workers’ names have been changed to protect them from management. Send support to firstname.lastname@example.org