Traffic wardens at two boroughs in London are taking on outsourcing giant NSL.
GMB union members at Tory-run Westminster and Wandsworth councils began a 48-hour strike for sick pay on Wednesday. And they plan a further two-day strike from Thursday of next week.
Traffic wardens in Wandsworth, south London, have already held two 48-hour strikes last month. This time they were boosted by fellow traffic wardens in Westminster—who had never struck before.
Peter, a GMB member at Westminster, said workers’ anger had come to a head over sick pay after years of poor treatment at the hands of NSL. “People have kept things inside for so long,” he told Socialist Worker.
“We’ve had no voice—and now we’re letting it all out.”
There was a party atmosphere on the picket line as strikers danced in front of their depot then marched on Westminster City Hall. Chants of “What do we want? Money! When to we want it? Now!” rang out.
Chelsea, a GMB member, told Socialist Worker, “We don’t often get to see each other, but this has been the best bonding exercise we’ve had.”
Tom, another striker, said, “This is my first time on strike, we’re here fighting for our rights and we’re all united."
Sick pay is only one of the issues that has angered workers. Traffic warden Ahmed told Socialist Worker, “They need to address how they’ve treated us and then we can start to have a conversation.
“Companies like NSL are bad and someone has to tell them that they can’t treat people like this in 2019.”
One grievance is NSL bosses use of the “Bradford Factor”—a management technique used to discourage people taking sick leave. Jennifer, a GMB member at Westminster, told Socialist Worker, “You could be in hospital from an injury in work.
“How can you come to work? But management say it’s your responsibility to come in. And then it goes on your record or on to a disciplinary if you score badly under the Bradford Factor.”
Johnathon, a GMB rep in Wandsworth, told Socialist Worker that support was still growing for their fight. “Our third strike has been solid,” he said “More people have joined the action than last time.
“And it’s having more of an affect because Westminster have come out too.”
Johnathon described a recent offer from management as a “back-handed insult”. “They offered us five days sick pay, which they knew was below what our members would even consider,” he said.
Further coordinated action across London boroughs can pile pressure onto NSL bosses.
Liz Wheatley is the Unison union secretary of the local government branch in nearby Camden. Traffic wardens in the north London borough have taken 33 days of strikes to force NSL bosses to give them a pay rise.
“It would be fantastic if Camden, Westminster and Wandsworth could be out together,” she told the picket line to loud cheers.
Every trade unionist should build support for the traffic wardens’ fight and join their picket lines.