Socialist Worker

Strikes get bigger for Camden traffic wardens - show solidarity on Saturday

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2641

Strikers rallied in Camden today on their fourth day of a 14-day walkout

Strikers rallied in Camden today on their fourth day of a 14-day walkout (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Strikers in Camden took their message directly to the Labour-run local authority’s swanky headquarters on Thursday.

Around 120 traffic wardens—known officially as Civil Enforcement Officers—are in their fourth day of a 14-day strike.

Chants of “Low pay—no way” rang out as around 50 strikers rallied ahead of a mass meeting to decide their next steps.

Workers are fighting for a pay rate of £11.15 an hour, alongside improvements to sick pay and an increase of holiday allocation.

The latest action is the third wave of strikes in this dispute by Unison union members. And larger numbers are joining the picket lines.

Traffic warden David told Socialist Worker that supervisors joining in “adds a seriousness to the action”.

“More supervisors are coming out,” he said. “We’ve not had that before and it adds a new dimension, it’s very good.”

Strikers estimate a maximum of ten workers have gone into work during the walkouts.

The predominantly black workforce is made up of lone workers who are regularly subject to abuse—much of it racist.

“The officers are attacked – we hear, ‘Go back to your own country’,” explained David. “I’ve been spat upon, and someone was attacked with a bicycle chain.

“Most cases, if the police come, they don’t come on time.”

The contract is outsourced to private firm NSL.

NSL’s latest offer of an “increase” was actually a pay cut in disguise—as bosses tried to include bonuses into the new “improved” hourly rate.

Bonuses

Workers also suffer a system that punishes them for being ill or for having childcare responsibilities. It means they don’t receive bonuses if they are absent from work for two days in a month.

Strikers are furious at their treatment at the hands of NSL and Camden Council.

“This is a capitalist council making millions from our work,” said David. “They’re making a lot of money and we’re at the forefront, doing the job.

“This is capitalism in its worse instance. I hope NSL come up with something. This strike will continue until we’re offered a decent wage.”

Strikers have received donations from local Unite, UCU, FBU and Unison union branches.

By the end of the third wave of action, they will have lost 33 days of pay. To an already low-paid workforce, this is a huge financial undertaking.

Strikers are receiving hardship support from Camden Unison. But they will need more solidarity from the wider trade union movement to help them sustain their action.

Traffic wardens plan a demonstration in the heart of Camden this Saturday.

They believe that a show of strength by striking workers, joined by other trade unionists, will be an important weapon at the negotiating table.

All trade unionists should support these low-paid workers fighting back in this important dispute.

Workers’ names have been changed.
Join the demonstration 10.30am, Saturday 9 February, Mornington Crescent tube station—bring trade union banners.
Join the picket lines 7am-10am:
Kilburn Base, 199 Belsize Road, NW6 4AA
Camden Car Pound, Regis Road, NW5 3EW
13-15 Guilford Street, WC1N 1DW

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