Royal Parks strike rally Royal Parks strike rally. Photo: Carole Vincent

Outsourced Royal Parks cleaners and attendants on strike are determined to keep fighting against unfair, racist conditions, reports Carole Vincent

John Moloney, Assistant General Secretary of PCS Union, headed up the second lot of strike days by Royal Parks cleaners and attendants on the Bank Holiday Monday.

As previously reported, the cleaners and attendants who work in Royal Parks and are members of the PCS and United Voices of the World (UVW) unions, are continuing their fight for pay parity with Royal Parks’ in-house workers. 

They are employed by private company, Just Ask who only took over the Services last year & immediately the workers’ pay and terms and conditions were affected.

Monday saw more members striking and greater support from other unions and members of the public who use the Royal Parks. 

Unite, Unite Community, Shop Stewards Network, RMT and other groups turned up to support the mainly BAME strikers in a show of solidarity.

Robert Eagleston, a PCS NEC member spoke passionately saying,

“The strikers have been inspiring over the past two weeks because this is a very important strike. The pandemic has shown up the inequalities that lie within the Royal Parks workers’ contracts, whose lives have been on the line, whilst working and keeping all the Royal Parks open, so that the public can use them safely throughout the past 18 months. They’ve delivered whilst their Just Ask bosses have not!

The workers are mainly from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and are working hard on inferior contracts to their mainly white counterparts still on in-house contracts.

The Royal Parks have ‘Charitable Status’, but where’s the humanity and compassion for their workers? These workers are showing solidarity with each other we need to show solidarity with them.”

The next speaker Katie Leslie, an organiser  from the PCS Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) sector, working with outsourced workers, brought messages of support to the Royal Parks strikers, because they too are planning strike action on 22-24 September against rogue private company ISS, regarding their T&Cs and pay. Katie told me,

“From two original members on a picket line, we now have 100% density of members in the sector fighting ISS in the heart of Whitehall and we’re beating them! We fully support the Royal Parks cleaners & attendants.”

Jonathan, from Doctors in Unite said,

“I come in solidarity with the Royal Parks cleaners and attendants. If not for these workers the public would not have been able to go out to use the Royal Parks for a walk, jog, dog walk or just to get out because not everyone has a garden.

During Covid last year & even now, people’s mental health was suffering and yet these brave people carried on working, keeping the toilets open and clean and cleaning Just Ask’s offices.”

Finally, several strikers contributed and one, Mabel, had this to say, which sums up why those who work in our parks need our support in bringing work back in-house and fully funded,

“I am here striking on Bank Holiday Monday instead of being with my family because I want fairness. I want to be treated properly, we have families and work hard. 

We need equality because some workers get holidays and holiday pay whilst some don’t. Just Ask don’t pay us, most of us are black, but most of the contracted Royal Parks staff, who get paid well are mainly white.

We want this to change, we want fair contracts of work, that’s all. Please support us in our fight for fairness.”

What is clear from Monday’s strike is that there appears to be a climate now where private companies think they can take over huge contracts from any organisation or Government department, undermine the workers, their conditions and profit to the detriment of the workforce. 

Companies like Just Ask and ISS are the tip of the iceberg, there are companies such as Serco who have massive NHS contracts for cleaning, portering and security and workers have had to fight for basic things like tea breaks! 

The striking Royal Parks cleaners and attendants saw from the turnout of support from other union members, with their numbers swelling as more workers joined the strike, that they can win. 

They marched through the park with a bank holiday spring in their step, drumming and a determination to keep up the pressure up on their bosses until they win.

You can donate to the strike fund here and send messages of solidarity to [email protected].

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