Camden’s traffic wardens, employed by parking enforcement contractor NSL, will not be striking after all. Their union, UNISON, called off a five-day strike that had been set to start on Monday 10 December and an indefinite overtime ban that had been in place since late August after reaching a deal with senior NSL management. The three-year settlement concluded on Thursday (06 December) will result in:
• A 4% rise on the hourly rate, backdated to 1 September 2012
• A 3% rise on top of that increase, with effect from 1 April 2013, and
• A further 3% increase from 1 April 2014.
This deal would take the basic hourly rate for workers on the contract from the current £8.09 an hour to £8.92 an hour by April 2014. As a result hourly rates, which had lagged behind the London Living Wage, currently £8.30 and set to increase to £8.55 next spring, will surpass it in each year of the agreement. NSL management has pledged to implement the backdated pay award before Christmas.
Commenting on the outcome, UNISON Branch Secretary George Binette said, “While this deal falls well short of achieving the workers’ original, justified, demands, the actions and the determination of our branch’s stewards and members over the past several months have struck a small but real blow against poverty pay and set an example that we’ll encourage other groups of workers to follow.”
Binette added, “The deal that has emerged reflects the combined impact of dramatic growth in UNISON membership on the contract, the development of shop stewards’ organisation and the threat of effective industrial action. Of course, the outcome is disappointing in some respects, but given the cold climate for trade unionism in Britain it is also a real achievement.”
Branch co-chair Phoebe Watkins said, “The dispute showed once again that low-paid workers can organise and fight in a determined way for improvements to their pay and conditions. It has also highlighted the damaging impact of privatisation that has plunged so many workers into poverty pay and served as a timely reminder to Camden’s Labour controlled council that it cannot simply wash its hands of responsibility for workers on outsourced contracts.”
UNISON and NSL have agreed, in principle, to discuss a wide range of issues not directly related to basic pay in the New Year. Meanwhile, the Camden branch is committed to working with other union branches in local authorities across London NSL contracts to build membership and organisation with the aim of securing really substantial gains for low paid workers over the months and years ahead.
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NOTES TO EDITORS FOLLOW:
1. Camden UNISON is the largest recognised trade union in Camden Council with some 3,300 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 collective bargaining purposes as substantially more than 50% of the workforce was in membership. Some 80% of the workforce now belongs to UNISON. Members on the contract had staged a solidly supported two-day strike in July, followed by a three-day walkout between 09 and 11 August, and an indefinite overtime ban
2. NSL, formerly part of NCP, split off from that company in 2008 and is currently controlled by a private equity firm. It has become the largest player in parking enforcement, both in Britain and across London, with more than a dozen local authority contracts in the capital alone. It reported an operating profit of £9.98m for calendar year 2011, while the pay and pensions package for its senior executive officer topped £500,000 that year.
3. Camden Council’s then Labour administration originally privatised parking enforcement in 2001 on the basis of two contracts. In 2009 Camden Council, then under the control of a Liberal Democrat-Conservative administration, awarded the contract to NSL, worth an estimated £44.6m over six years (2010-16).
4. The London Living Wage (LLW) is calculated on behalf of the Greater London Authority and Mayor of London’s office, but has no statutory footing. It was set in spring 2011 at £8.30 an hour – more than £2.20 above the present level of the National Minimum Wage, but not uprated in 2012. On 5 November Mayor Boris Johnson announced an increase to £8.55 an hour. Camden Council’s Cabinet agreed to move towards the implementation of LLW for workers on outsourced contracts on 18 July. Camden Council’s ruling Labour group has introduced LLW as a minimum for all direct Council employees, but the proposed timetable for implementation on outsourced contracts extends to 2017.