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Gridlock in south London as traffic wardens walk out

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Wandsworth traffic wardens are joining the pay revolt. Meanwhile, Wealden bins dispute concludes, and Coventry strikers call for solidarity
Issue 2810
Pickets stand firm in south London

Strikers are driving demands for better demands (Picture: Ben Windsor)

Traffic wardens in Wandsworth, south London, took part in lively picket lines on Monday during their strike for better pay and conditions. Members of the GMB union, who are outsourced to NSL Parking Services, rallied outside their offices and chanted “pay rise.”

One striker told Socialist Worker, “It’s not an easy job. All you have to do is put on the uniform and walk down the street, and you get abuse. People think we get bonuses for handing out more fines, but it’s a myth. We are hourly paid.” The traffic wardens are also angry that workers for NSL, who work in different parts of London, are paid more than them, .

They also want to be paid above basic rates of pay for any overtime they do. The strike has seen solid support from workers. One worker noted that only five wardens out of the 65 had come into work on Monday. And the situation has become so dire that even line managers have joined the strike. Workers were set to strike until Wednesday of this week and from Monday to Wednesday next week.

The same group of workers struck in 2018 when the council was run by the Tories. GMB regional organiser Paul Grafton said, “Now that the Tories have been ousted from Wandsworth, we will be calling on the Labour leader to bring these important and valuable services back under local authority control.”

Workers should take heart from the victorious Camden traffic wardens, who have led several successful campaigns of hard-hitting strikes. As a result, they are paid above the rate of neighbouring boroughs. Serious action can win Wandsworth traffic wardens a similar result.

Thanks to Ben Windsor

Wealden strikers ‘mixed feelings’ about pay deal

Refuse workers in Wealden, east Sussex, have accepted a pay offer after striking for seven weeks. But not everyone is celebrating outsourcer Biffa’s new deal.

The offer was heralded as “massive” by the GMB union, which wrote, “Biffa’s latest pay offer will constitute a pay rise of more than 27 percent for some workers.”

But some workers aren’t so convinced. Striker Harry told Socialist Worker that he had “mixed feelings” about the outcome. The new agreement is a two-year deal. It will see loaders’ pay rise to £10.80 an hour. LGV drivers will get £11.40, and HGV drivers will get £13.50 this year. They will see their pay increase again next year by around 8 percent.

Harry told Socialist Worker that the £10.80 falls short of what workers wanted, “We wanted at least £12 an hour, originally we wanted £15,” he said. He also added the workers would receive a lump sum next payday of upwards of £600. But he rightly said that as the cost of living crisis rages, this probably won’t go far.

“That money will just about cover our gas and electricity. We’ve got guys at work that, when they are paid, have just £50 to live on for the month,” he said. “Workers here are going to foodbanks. We often lend colleagues an extra £50, so they can get through.”

Harry added that a very small number of workers voted to return to work and accept the deal. “We had two votes on Tuesday,” said Harry. “On the second almost 40 of us voted to reject the offer, and only four or five voted to go back. But we said even if one of us wanted to go back, we’d walk in together.”

  • Harry is a pseudonym

A solidarity shout out

Bin strikers in Coventry are still holding out against the Labour-led council in their dispute over pay. A deal is close to being made, but issues over existing and built-up holiday pay are preventing a completed deal. And no settlement will be agreed that does not include the withdrawal of disciplinary action against deputy convenor Pete Randle.

Workers have been on all-out strike for better pay since January. The Unite union must ensure any back to work agreement doesn’t impact negatively on the strikers. To keep up the pressure more rallies and marches should be called.

The Tom White Waste plant should also be hit. It is owned by the council and is being used to coordinate scab labour to undermine the strike. Trade unionists must continue to financially support the strikers’ battle as the long-running strike hits the summer.

  • Send donations to Unity Trust Bank a/c Unite WM/7116 Branch Coventry Local Government, Sort code: 60-83-01, a/c number: 20302665
  • Send messages of support to [email protected]

Property walkout

Workers at Thirteen Housing Group, a housing association in the north east of England and Yorkshire, are set to strike for three weeks. They were offered just a 3 percent pay rise. And that came with pension changes that will leave some workers £1,000 a year worse off.

The Unite union members are responsible for property maintenance and admin for 35,000 properties. Unite said “hundreds of its members voted by 83 percent” for strikes. Strikes were due this Saturday until next Tuesday. Further walkouts are planned for 2-6 July, 9-14 July and 16-22 July.

Workers search for a moral Compass

Cleaning workers mounted a defiant protest last week outside London Bridge Hospital to demand an end to poverty pay and better conditions. The workers are outsourced to Compass Group.

Marino, a cleaner in the IWGB union, said, “I don’t feel respected at London Bridge Hospital. Despite working hard doing dangerous work during the pandemic, I was harassed by management, bullied into working seven days a week, and disciplined for asking about potential Covid risks in my workplace.”

Engineering a pay rise in Stockton

Workers at Darchem Engineering in Stockton-on-Tees struck last Monday and planned to strike for another four days this week. The engineering firm supplies Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.

The GMB and Unite union members are angry that while welders at the plant were given an additional pay supplement, engineers weren’t.

New strikes at New City college

College workers across east London could strike over pay, holiday leave and workload. Members of the UCU union who are part of the New City College group voted on whether to take action last week.

At Hackney College, part of the New City College group, management plans 59 redundancies as part of a fire and rehire push.

Revving up for struggle in Tipton

Workers who make interiors for luxury car brands McLaren, Aston Martin and Bentley are due to start seven one-day strikes next week. More than 100 workers at CabAuto in Tipton, West Midlands, earn just £9.90 an hour for cars that sell for up to £700,000.

After a 3 percent offer—more than an 8 percent wage cut in real terms—strikes will take place on Tuesday and Thursday of next week. These will be followed by strikes on 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 July.

The maelstrom of class struggle

Workers who repair, deliver, install and maintain household appliances for Whirlpool based in Peterborough are voting on strikes over pay.

The Unite union is balloting over a 2.5 percent pay offer. Whirlpool workers install and repair for Hotpoint, Indesit and Whirlpool. Service engineers based nationwide could also walk out.

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