Socialist Worker

Wandsworth traffic wardens aren’t waiting to act over sick pay

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2639

Picketing on Thursday

Picketing on Thursday (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Traffic wardens in south London are taking the fight for sick pay to outsourcing giant NSL.

GMB union members in the Tory-run borough of Wandsworth began a 48-hour strike on Thursday—and plan a further two-day walkout from next Thursday.

Workers are furious that bosses make them work in harsh weather conditions then penalise them if they fall ill. Ralph, a GMB member, told Socialist Worker, “You’ll be outside working for eight hours.

“You can only seek shelter when it’s raining and imagine being out that long in cold temperatures like there are now.

“We see being out in all conditions as part and parcel of the job.

“But when the people sitting in the office, drinking their hot coffee, get sick pay and we don’t then that’s wrong.”

James, a striker, told Socialist Worker, “Management are on sick pay, but they’re refusing to negotiate with us about it.

“The way they treat people is questionable—to say the least.”

Many workers complained that bosses don’t provide them with proper equipment. Ralph said, “We don’t have adequate uniforms to keep us warm, even in this weather we don’t have proper jumpers.

“I said to management, ‘At least give us a stylus so we don’t have to take our gloves off when using our hand-held machines’. How much could it be? 50p? Management told me to go to Poundland and buy one.

“But why should I buy one when they make a fortune.”

Bradford

A big issue is the Bradford Factor—a management tool that monitors workers’ “unplanned absences”. Eddie, a GMB member, told Socialist Worker, “It shouldn’t be used to penalise people who are genuinely sick.

“I was beginning to feel really rough one day. I thought, I’ve got an exemplary work record so it’s alright if I go home.

“I came back the next day and had to have a back to work interview and the letters you get are very intimidatory.”

James said, “The Bradford Factor is supposed to stop people ‘abusing’ sick leave, but how can we do that if we haven’t got sick pay?”

Strikers are determined

Strikers are determined (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Workers were angered by a letter from bosses telling them not to “take part in the rushed moves towards industrial action” that would “jeopardise our ability to find an amicable solution”.

Pickets said that bosses’ attitude had an impact on some workers. But lively picket lines, with solidarity from other trade unionists in south London, could help win the arguments.

As James said, “When they see the strike it could give them confidence to say I’m going to strike too.”

Councils in London make £1 million a day in profits from parking fine, which gives workers immense power to hit bosses. As Ralph said, “Why are rich people rich? Because they’re tight and it’s us poor people who make them rich.

“But many small axes can chop down a big tree. And that’s what we can do—hit them where it hurts in the pocket and reputation.”

Every trade unionist should build solidarity for the traffic wardens fight and join them on the picket lines.

Camden traffic wardens, also employed by NSL, begin a strike on 4 February.

Workers names have been changed

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