New Covent Garden Market facing week-long 'turmoil'

OCS security guards strike over poverty pay rates - security guards and first aiders paid just £9.69 an hour

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New Covent Garden Market in Nine Elms London is facing a week of turmoil as its security guards, employed by outsourcers OCS Group UK Ltd, take a week of strike action, after the company refused to even enter into formal pay talks.

The security guards, who also act as the first aiders at the fruit, vegetable and flower market, are paid just £9.69 an hour. The workers are seeking to be paid at least the London Living Wage which now stands at £11.95 an hour

Strike action will begin on Thursday 27 October and last for a week.

New Convent Garden Market is operated by the Covent Market Garden Authority (CMGA), a statutory corporation that reports to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “OCS’ actions are abhorrent. This is an extremely wealthy company that is paying poverty wages and is not even prepared to enter into negotiations about a fair pay increase.

“The CMGA should be holding its head in shame for allowing a company that is paying poverty pay rates to operate on its site.

“Unite’s commitment to defend the jobs, pay and conditions of its members is absolute and our members at OCS are receiving the union’s complete support.”

The security guards previously took three days of strike action in September, which caused widespread disruption at the market. Despite bringing in agency staff, only one entrance to the market was open. A manager from OCS was required to sleep at the site to deal with any urgent issues. Unite believes that it was a matter of luck that there was not a major incident during the strike as there were not sufficient first aiders on the premises.

The OCS Group UK Ltd is fully able to pay its security guards a decent wage. Its 2021 profits reveal that it made post-tax profits of £19.5 million in 2021.

Unite regional officer Steve Rowlatt added, “Strike action will cause turmoil at New Covent Garden Market but this is entirely of OCS’ own making, the company’s arrogance is overwhelming and it has not even deigned to begin formal pay negotiations for its chronically low paid workers.”

By Barckley Sumner

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