Camden UNISON has successfully negotiated a recognition agreement with the company which runs one of the Council’s largest contracts. But there is still some way to go, writes John Mann.
Although most of our members are directly employed by the Council, Camden UNISON also recruits from a number of private and voluntary organisations. Among the biggest of these is NSL, the company which runs the parking enforcement contract within the borough, worth over £40 million.
After a couple of years hard work building the union within NSL we now represent more than 50% of the workforce and have just signed a union recognition agreement with the company. This gives UNISON members much greater protection than they have previously enjoyed. NSL has agreed to give time off for meetings; recognise up to nine stewards; establish joint consultative bodies and make a number of other arrangements taken for granted by the bulk of our members.
Members in NSL understand the need to organise and stand together in the face of an aggressive employer and although the recognition agreement is an important gain they know there will be many struggles coming up.
For example on pay, where the majority of staff earn around £8 per hour, NSL is currently refusing to negotiate. Another major problem is caused by the Council’s attempts to reduce the cost of the NSL contract. Recently the company made redundant eleven staff in the CCTV section because Camden had made a significant cut in its requirement for that service. There is also evidence that much stricter ‘monitoring’ of the contract is resulting in increased pressure on front line staff, with members reporting threats of deductions in pay if they spend too long on toilet breaks!
The next few months will be vital if we are to build on the successes that have been achieved. We have to recruit the new stewards and train them to be able to take on the day to day business of representing their members. We also need to identify the key issues that our members in NSL want the union to fight for – which are likely to be the same ones other UNISON members see as important.
So next time you see traffic wardens (or civil enforcement officers) in Camden, give them a smile – they are probably fellow UNISON members.