An all-out strike by traffic wardens in Camden, north London, has forced bosses to make a new offer after less than one week. But workers are pushing for more.
Emmanuel, a Unison union rep, is one of the workers outsourced to multinational NSL on a contract to the Labour-run Camden council. “The indefinite, all-out action is having an impact,” he told Socialist Worker. “They’ve already made us an offer and they’re not using agency staff like they did last time.”
Workers are fighting for £15.90 an hour—most currently earn just £12.70 an hour. NSL had offered the strikers a measly 57p an hour more. Now, after almost a week of action, it has offered £15 an hour—but with the increase implemented across three years.
One striker told Socialist Worker, “We’d be screwed because inflation is still so high. That offer goes down each year too. It’s not worth us even considering. We need the money now.”
NSL’s new offer includes 95p from April 2023, 70p from April 2024 and 65p from April 2025. “That will be rejected,” rep Farouk told Socialist Worker. “We’re having a members’ meeting on Monday where we’ll ask people to vote.
“People are very angry, it’s not a serious offer. They say they have no money. It’s such a huge company, really they just don’t care.
“What we really want is a one year deal. But they’ve offered something quicker than they did when we were last out. We’re sending a message by rejecting this offer and clearly the strike is affecting them.”
On Saturday traffic wardens joined rail strikers outside Euston station and rallied alongside St Mungo’s charity workers, who’re also on all-out strike, earlier this week.
Since the strike began, four traffic wardens who had been going into work have joined Unison. Farouk explained, “It was obvious to them to join after seeing us out here. The strike has been solid. Morale is really high.
“The solidarity has also been great. We’ve had meetings with other Unison branches and members on similar contracts. We’re asking for support but also to spread the message.”
Chants of “Low pay? No way,” and, “No slave labour,” rang out. “There’s people who have been kidnapped and beaten up when doing this job,” Jay said. “We’re entitled to compensation, but some of us have had to take the company to court for this.
“We have conflict management training. But when someone who’s angry comes up in the street and punches you what are you supposed to do? The supervisors don’t care. They’re rude and don’t know what they’re talking about—management treats us like garbage.”
Jay added, “What are we doing this for? It’s just to make money for someone else.” The strikers explained that they’re not paid sick pay until the fourth day. “People can’t afford to be sick,” Dan said. “Then if you take too many sick days you’re disciplined.
“But it’s no wonder we get ill working in all weathers with no protection. We have to pay for all our travel on shift too. We used to get bus passes, and we’re all over the borough.”
“We’re supposed to take breaks in shelters, but if we take too many we’re also disciplined. But they tell us to use the shelters so we don’t use the dryers to dry our clothes. We used to be allowed to have all breaks at the centre, now they say to sit in local cafes. That all comes out of our money.”
Another striker said, “The uniforms are so thin and you get soaked through. If the dryers are in use you’re told to go back out, even if you’re dripping wet.”
Every trade unionist, socialist and campaigner should rally around the indefinite strikes by Camden traffic wardens, St Mungo’s homelessness workers and Brighton university workers. They should join the march outside Camden Town Hall next Saturday with union banners and delegations.
A victory in Camden would be a blow to outsourcing—and boost other workers fighting for higher pay.
Names have been changed
Messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org
Demonstration – Low Pay, No Way. March with our striking traffic wardens Sat 5 August. Assemble 11am outside Camden Town tube, march down Camden High St to rally at Mornington Crescent
Picket lines 7-10am each day: Regis Road, NW5 3EW (Kentish Town) from 7am to 10am each day, 199 Belsize Road NW6 4AA (Kilburn) from 7am to 10am each day, 13-15 Guilford St WC1N 1DW (near Russell Square)