August 5, 2023
From Socialist Worker (UK)

Camden strike activists in rain with wet-weather gear and umbrellas. Purple and white Unison union placards, flags and bibs.

Camden strikers rallying in the rain on Saturday (Picture: Socialist Worker)

Camden traffic wardens took their dispute to the streets on Saturday as they marched through the north London borough demanding a pay rise.

The strikers, employed by outsourcer NSL, are at the end of two weeks of an all-out strike. Around 60 people braved the rain and took part in a lively march from Camden tube station to Mornington Crescent for a rally.

Other Unison union members from across London and surrounding areas joined them as did St Mungo’s homelessness charity strikers and UCU union members.

Striker Alf told Socialist Worker, “Today has been really encouraging. It’s right that we’re fighting. We feel we’re being cheated.

“This strike has given us perspective—and we’re fighting harder than we have before. We’re not going to relax, we’re going to fight to achieve all our main aims.

“The cost of living and no pay rises are catching up with us. But this indefinite strike is important—and it sends a message.”

Bosses last week offered strikers a rise to £15 an hour in three years’ time. The strikers are demanding £15.90 on a one-year deal. “That offer was a slap in the face,” Alf said.

“They need to come up with something meaningful, and also listen to our demands about terms and conditions.

“They also want to keep conversations about pay and conditions separate—but you can’t separate the two.”

Striker Jeffery also slammed the bosses’ offer as “very poor”. “Especially when they tell us to do more work for less money,” he told Socialist Worker. “For instance, they’ve given us the job of environmental enforcer too, but we don’t see our pay increase.

“We work more for less. Other traffic wardens in London are paid more than us, and outside London too. We’re suffering in Camden. NSL has the money to pay, but we don’t matter to them.

“NSL knows the majority of us are black and Asian and so they think they can treat us like this.”

As the strikers marched down Camden High Street, they were cheered on by passers-by and cars beeped in support. They marched in the street and chanted, “Low pay? No way” and “What do we want? Pay rise. When do we want it? Now.”

Rep Emmanual told Socialist Worker, “It’s been fantastic, and we’re being joined by new members. The turnout for the strike and the protest today, even in the rain, gives strength to our dispute.”

Camden Unison branch secretary Liz Wheatley told the rally, “This is our members’ fourth time taking action against NSL, which is the subsidiary of a huge multinational company that makes millions out of evicting people and security.

“We don’t want these people having contracts in local councils. All our members should be in-house so we’re going to fight for decent pay from the bosses now, but we’re also going to fight for them to be in-house.”

Liz said the strikers are part of a strike wave “putting the idea of working class people taking action back on the agenda.”

“Everyone will try to divide us, from the bosses to the government. It’s important we don’t let them do this by sector or by using racism,” she added.

“That’s what Rishi Sunak is trying to do when he talks about small boats and stopping migrants coming here.

“Our strikers and their families come from all around the world, we should be proud of that. Victory to our strikers.”

The Camden traffic wardens are resolute to win—and they deserve full support in their battle against low pay and racist outsourcing practices.

  • Listen to Liz’s speech here
  • St Mungo’s striker’s speech here
  • Messages of support to [email protected] Picket lines 7‑10am each day: Regis Road, NW5 3EW, 199 Belsize Road NW6 4AA, 13‑15 Guilford St WC1N
  • Strikers’ names have been changed