Hackney Borough Council needs to take back its local services, argues Ellen Graubart
The issuing of parking tickets was disrupted in Hackney, East London, when the borough’s traffic wardens took two days of strike action on Monday and Tuesday (14th & 15th May) in a dispute over pay. They had voted by 100 percent for industrial action for a pay increase which their employer, APCOA Parking, had promised from April this year - on which the company then reneged.
APCOA had a year ago asked Unite to provide evidence for a pay claim, and if provided, the company would increase staff pay. Ample evidence was provided by the union, but APCOA refused to pay up, claiming that the council had told them that they were not required to increase pay – a cynical move, as Hackney borough council is not the employer, having contracted out its parking services to this company.
As well as asking for a fair pay increase of 5% for all staff from 1st April 2018, Hackney’s traffic wardens are asking for a better Health and Safety environment, a fair implementation of recruitment/sick leave/annual leave procedures, and a better long service award.
Onay Kasab (Regional Officer Unite The Union): “The overwhelming majority of traffic wardens are on the London Living Wage (LLW) of £10.20 an hour. These workers, out in all weathers, only get the LLW uprate each year. So instead of being the minimum that employers should pay, the LLW becomes the maximum. We are arguing that each April there should be proper pay negotiations – with the aim of taking workers above the LLW. This is what happens in local government. Ironically, this contract is run by APCOA on behalf of Hackney council.”
Hackney traffic wardens are confident of winning this battle. They have had enormous support and help from Onay Kasabi, and the leadership of Mohammed Jamil, who has increased union membership during his period as workplace Rep from 15% when he was elected about 6 years ago to 85% today.
I had never heard of APCOA until recently. It is yet another giant global company. The initials stand for Airport Parking Company of America, Europe's longest-established full-service parking management company. It manages over 1,400,000 parking spaces across 12 countries, and employs approximately 4,500 people. It is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany.
APCOA must pay up. And Hackney Borough Council must implement its manifesto pledge to take the service back in house.
Ellen Graubart was born in India of American parents and came to London from Virginia as a teenager to study art. She lives and works as an artist in Hackney. She is a member of Counterfire, Stop the War and Hackney Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
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