Traffic wardens in Camden are taking the fight for higher pay to outsourcing giant NSL.
Chants of “Low pay—no way” rang out in front of the Guildford Street office in Bloomsbury as many first-time strikers joined the picket line.
Jacob, a Unison member, told Socialist Worker, “We’ve got a really bad management who punish us for minor things. We bring in all this money, but they don’t want to pay us properly.
“I’ve not been on strike before. But I thought, ‘You know what, I do deserve to have more money’.”
NSL pays workers £10.20 an hour. This is part of a three-year deal agreed after a previous round of strikes in 2015.
Bosses accepted they had to pay workers above the London Living Wage, which stood at £9.75 an hour.
The London Living Wage has since gone up to £10.20 an hour—but bosses are refusing to stump up more money.
Jonathon, another Unison member, told Socialist Worker, “It’s really expensive to live in London and it’s getting harder. Everything is going up—housing, council tax, food, travel costs—apart from our pay.
“We make a lot of money for them and they still don’t want to give us anything.”
Workers voted nine to one for strikes in a ballot.
The fight for higher pay is at the centre of the traffic warden’s dispute, but they are also angry about a host of other issues. Jonathon said workers wanted to put a stop to “management bullying and harassment”.
Unison member Terrance explained that management didn’t provide traffic wardens with appropriate uniforms for working outside. “It was the summer so I asked for a hat to get some protection,” he told Socialist Worker.
“I got burned because I didn’t have one, but management should have that stuff at the base already.”
He added, “What we want is some dignity at work.”
The predominantly black workers frequently face verbal abuse and sometimes physical attacks at work.
Support for the strike has come from other Unison members at the council and trade unionists across Camden. Workers at the Guildford Street site were visited by workers from the nearby UCH hospital and UCL university.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis joined a couple of the picket lines. He pledged, “We won’t leave you by yourself and we’ll make sure management know that you won’t back down”.
The traffic wardens are determined to fight and win. As Jonathon said, “If you don’t go on strike you don’t get anything.
“The union has to keep continuous pressure on management.”
Unison member Richard added, “People are ready to go out for even longer than five-days”.
The Unison national leadership must throw its full political and financial weight behind the dispute. And every trade unionist, particularly at Camden council, should build solidarity with the traffic wardens and join their picket lines.