NSL: Champers for the managers, Argos points for the staff

Camden has awarded NSL Services Group a six year Parking contract starting in April and valued over £44m with the opportunity to renew for a further 2 years. Sarah Friday explains the issues with the contract, and the difference between how managers and workers are treated.

Along with two other companies they bid for the new one, and from the November Executive meeting it was clear that NSL had won the contract. Their base managers toasted success with champagne. But the celebrations were not shared with the parking wardens – now known as Civil Enforcement Officers.

They refused to contribute towards a Christmas party for their on-street staff to celebrate the successful re-tender. Instead they agreed to award staff Christmas Argos points! (CEOs are awarded Argos points for good performance.)

When the new contract starts CEOs will have additional duties:

– passing a City and Guilds Vocationally Recognised Qualification Level 2 Award for Parking
– an ambassadorial role in helping the public and
– being the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Council on the streets.

Camden UNISON has submitted a 2010/11 pay claim to NSL to get the CEOs due rewards for these additional duties. Our demands include:

– remuneration for the additional CEO duties – an increase of £1 an hour to £8.85. This will go part way to achieving parity with CEOs on other NSL contracts (Walthamstow CEOs earn £9.97 and Ealing £9.31)
– increase in annual leave (currently 20 days plus bank holidays)
– a shorter working week (currently 42.5 hours)
– enhancement for out of hours and weekend working
– sharing the success – this contract is worth around £55 million over the next six years. NSL’s highest paid director was paid £464,000 in 2008.

The CEOs have opportunities to make up their wages through a £250 a quarter ‘at work bonus’ and through accumulating Argos points. But as one CEO said ‘you only need so many kettles – a decent rate of pay is the important thing’.

This is a ‘third generation’ contract, with only a handful of CEOs out of about 250, still on Camden Council terms and conditions at scale 5. Staff on NSL terms and conditions are paid about £10,000 less.

It is a scandal that they do exactly the same job but there is such a huge gap in pay and terms and conditions.

Nationally UNISON has lobbied the Government for legislation to ensure that all those who start work after the TUPE transfer are recruited on the same terms and conditions as their TUPE protected colleagues. The 2005 Workforce Code of Practice was one attempt by the Government to address this issue. But this had not worked. The decision Camden took on this contract shows how public sector bodies can get around such codes. Camden said that new staff joining the contract would have to be recruited on terms and conditions equivalent to Camden’s and the existing staff would remain on existing conditions ‘hence a two tier workforce would remain’.

Probably crucial to the decision was Camden’s calculation that applying the code would have cost £12.37 million over the contract life with ‘no demonstrable value added’.

When reaching this conclusion it was a shame that Camden did not take in to account the ‘demonstrable value’ that decent terms and conditions would have in securing high quality staff to deliver the service and pay at a sufficient level to recruit, motivate and retain high quality staff. Our pay claim is a small step towards eradicating the two tier workforce.

Success in this will show UNISON’s determination to represent members working in the private sector on collective bargaining issues.

Sarah Friday
Camden UNISON Branch Officer

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