Traffic wardens in Camden, north London, say “going on indefinite strike from the beginning” of their dispute has helped them win an inflation-beating pay rise.
Their victory shows that hard-hitting action—rather than one of two-day walkouts, with gaps in between—can get results quickly.
The Unison union members, who struck for 59 days, voted 100 percent in favour of a pay rise to £15 an hour this year backdated to April. That’s equivalent to £5,000 or 18.1 percent. The deal also means an increase to £15.90 next April and to £16.50 in April 2025, or at the RPI inflation rate—whichever is highest.
The traffic wardens, who are employed by outsourcer NSL on a contract to Camden’s Labour-run council, were previously on just £12.70 an hour. They began an indefinite strike in July to demand £15.90.
Rep and striker Emmanuel told Socialist Worker, “The result was fantastic, we’re happy. We were cohesive and tenacious. They offered us just a few pennies before we came out, then a rise to £15 over three years.
“But people were strong and united—we made it clear we really weren’t going anywhere until we got that money.”
Emmanuel added, “We felt strong making lots of noise on the pickets, with people changing and banging drums, and going on the longest strike we’ve had.
“We had more Unison members before this strike than previous strikes, and now we have even more members as people joined us during the action.
“Going back in, people feel strong. We know what management is like so we have to be wary. But we feel proud of ourselves and the union that we were able to achieve something.”
Camden Unison branch secretary Liz Wheatley told Socialist Worker, “This is a fantastic win for our members. Their pay rise really is inflation-busting and shows what you can get if you organise, fight and stay solid.
“Taking indefinite industrial action was a bold move but it’s paid off. Every day the picket lines were loud, large and got larger as the strike went on.
“Private contracts in public services often have black workforces who work longer hours for lower pay than in-house workers. But our members fought back against racist outsourcing practices, privatisation and low pay.
“Every decision was made by our members at mass meetings, from where we picketed and protested to the offers being accepted or rejected.”
After schools reopened this month, the pressure mounted on the council and NSL as lost revenue from tickets and fines generated by CCTV grew.
Striker Aarun told Socialist Worker, “During the last round of strikes, the CCTV department came out, but some did break the strike. This time we were very solid—we made up our mind to go all-out.
“Going out on indefinite strike from the beginning definitely helped us win. Six years ago, we had a round of two week strikes with breaks. That slowed things down and people lost interest. If we were to strike again, indefinite is the strategy.”
In the final mass meeting on Wednesday, the traffic wardens recorded a solidarity video to Brighton UCU union members currently on indefinite strike. And they sent solidarity to Unison members in nearby Barnet and Kirklees college workers who are about to begin action.
They also agreed to sell their drums, and donate the money to other strikes’ solidarity funds. Liz added, “At the end of the meeting somebody who was on strike for the first time said how important it’d been to him. He said the solidarity and collective spirit keep him going.”
Strikers explained how the strike had brought them together. In work they are referred to by number. In meetings and on picket lines they made sure to call each other by name.
Camden council outsources to NSL as it means cheaper wages, less holiday and sick pay—but working more hours. “Our next campaign is to bring these workers back in house to get conditions the same as other council workers,” Liz said.
Aarun added, “We’re going back in now stronger. The deal means we are being paid closer to what council workers are, so we can argue against Camden sub-contracting to NSL.”
He explained that solidarity from activists and trade unionists, and support from Camden unison “kept us motivated”. “We couldn’t have done it without their backing,” he said. It’s not been easy. People have lost out financially and are struggling to pay bills. But now this pay rise will settle things, it was a great win.”
Aarun is a pseudonymOriginal post