NEARLY 160 Camden UNISON members are poised to strike for the first time on Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 July. The workers, employed by Camden Council’s parking contractor NSL, voted overwhelmingly to walk out in a recent postal ballot with nearly 98% supporting strike action on a 63% turnout. The decisive ‘yes’ vote came after NSL had initially dismissed out of hand UNISON’s pay and conditions claim, first lodged this February.
Following the ballot result and the notification of strike dates, NSL came back to UNISON with a three-year offer last Friday (05 July). The management proposal ignored other issues and focused solely on the question of basic hourly pay, which currently stands at £8.09 an hour for the vast majority of the workforce – or 21 pence an hour below the rate of London Living Wage set last year. The offer would still leave the hourly rate below £9.00 in 2015, when the current contract with Camden is due to expire.
The emphatic vote for action highlighted the level of anger and frustration at poor wages and the absence of benefits such as occupational sick pay. Since the announcement of the ballot result on 27 June, 20 more workers on the Camden NSL contract have joined UNISON, bringing membership to more than 80% of the total workforce. NSL has already faced strike action this year by Unite members on its Ealing contract, demanding the reinstatement of a sacked union representative, and also lost an Employment Tribunal case over the victimisation of a whistle-blowing employee on its Kensington & Chelsea contract.
Camden UNISON Branch Secretary said, “Despite generating millions in crucial revenue for Camden Council and braving the elements as well as abuse from the motoring public almost every working day, these workers still face the reality of chronically low pay in one of the world’s most expensive cities for housing and public transport. We are sceptical about NSL’s claim that it cannot afford to pay more, but in addition we’re calling on Camden’s Labour council to translate rhetorical concern for the low-paid into meaningful action.”
For further information, interview, etc please contact either George Binette (branch secretary) or John Mann (branch organiser) in the Camden UNISON branch office.
NOTES TO EDITORS FOLLOW:
1. Camden UNISON is the largest recognised trade union in Camden Council with some 3,400 members among local authority employees, on outsourced council contracts and in the voluntary sector. In 2011 it became the first UNISON branch to gain recognition from NSL for purposes of collective bargaining on the grounds that well above 50% of the workforce was in membership.
2. NSL, formerly part of NCP, was split off from the rest of that company in 2008 and is currently controlled by a private equity firm. It is now the largest player in parking enforcement, both in Britain and across London, with 12 local authority contracts in the capital. It reported an operating profit of £9.98m for calendar year 2011.
3. Camden Council originally privatised parking enforcement functions at the start of the last decade on the basis of two contracts. In 2009 Camden Council, then under the control of a Liberal Democrat-Conservative administration, awarded a six-year contract to NSL, worth an estimated £44.6m over its life span.
4. The London Living Wage (LLW) is calculated on behalf of the Greater London Authority and Mayor of London’s office. It was last set in spring 2011 at £8.30 an hour – more than £2.20 above the present level of the National Minimum Wage. Camden Council’s ruling Labour group has introduced LLW as a minimum for all direct Council employees, but in contrast to its 2010 manifesto pledges there has been no movement towards LLW or indeed any improvements in pay and conditions for workers on outsourced contracts in the past two years.
Camden UNISON Branch Secretary
Mobile: 07905 826304/BlackBerry: 07557 563 044.