Foot dragging by APCOA Parking in Hackney, east London has driven the traffic wardens to take five days of strike action from Monday (October 12) in a bid to get a proper sick pay policy.
The 30 employees will strike from just after midnight on Monday to midnight on Friday (16 October) against APCOA Parking, their private sector employer, which has the contract from Hackney council to run the service. The staff have also rejected a 1.5 per cent pay deal for this year.
The workers, members of Unite, previously staged two days of strike action in August, following a 100 per cent vote for strike action.
Unite has also discovered that the company is not paying the London ‘Living Wage’ (LLW) of £9.15 an hour to the mainly black Asian ethnic minority (BAEM) workforce as it is wrongly including a non-guaranteed bonus in the calculation and only 60 per cent of workers on average hit the bonus target.
The traffic wardens will be leafletting outside Hackney town hall next Thursday (15 October) when the council’s social inclusion scrutiny committee will be meeting and again on October 19 to leaflet the authority’s cabinet members – at 6pm on both occasions. The union would also like to address both meetings to outline its case on behalf of the traffic wardens.
Unite has again warned that the council will lose revenue from parking tickets not being issued and said that the chances of car users in the borough getting booked for a parking offence will be much reduced.
The focus of the dispute is that the traffic wardens, known as civil enforcement officers, have worse pay, and terms and conditions than council staff – employees of the same authority that hands out the contracts to private companies.
“Presently, the company pays statutory sick pay (SSP) only, which is set at £88.45 per week,” Unite regional officer Onay Kasab wrote in a letter to councillors. “The scheme only applies after three consecutive days of sickness – so the first three days are not paid.”
A meeting between the management and Unite took place on October, after next week’s strike notice was issued.
“The result was disappointing,” Kasab continued. “The employer made a take it-or-leave it offer and, when asked, replied it was not prepared to negotiate. The offer is for one week of sick pay over a rolling year, not applicable for the first three days of sickness. In other words, to get one day of sick pay, you must have been sick for four consecutive days first of all.”
“The average number of sick days at the company, based on company figures is three days per year,” he argued. “The offer is woefully inadequate.”
On the LLW, Kasab highlighted that as non-guaranteed payments are not supposed to be included in the calculation, the council is engaging a contractor, which despite assurances, is not paying the London Living Wage.
“I have previously highlighted how contractors in schools (in the borough) are not paying the LLW,” he noted. “This is impacting on a mainly female, BAEM workforce. The majority of those impacted at APCOA are also BAEM.”
The dispute comes against the backdrop of a Fair Deal For Local Government campaign by Unite’s London and Eastern region which has almost 300,000 members. The campaign is aimed against privatisation and austerity in local government.
The campaign is a set of proposals that Unite is putting to councils in the region. It is a procurement strategy to ensure that quality services are maintained and that there is no ‘race to the bottom’ for pay and conditions post any transfer.
Find out more about the campaign here.