TRAFFIC wardens are into their second day of strike action today in an escalating struggle over pay and union rights.
GMB the union which represents the striking traffic wardens said in a statement: ‘Wandsworth’s yellow lines and restricted parking bays will be left free for all during a two-day strike and the council must spend some of the £16m surplus from parking on better pay.
‘Members are calling for a living wage of £10.00 per hour, up from as little as the current £7.50, as well as union rights.
‘The strike action, voted for by 92% to 8% in an official ballot of GMB members, followed the company’s continued refusal to enter into any pay negotiations with the union.
‘The two-day strike of Wandsworth parking attendants took place on Friday and is continuing today after the failure of talks between GMB and Mouchel to avert strike action in a dispute over pay and union rights.
‘Mouchel were given notice that 100 parking attendants, employed to enforce yellow lines and restricted parking bays in Wandsworth, will take strike action on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th October.
‘The strikers formed picket lines from 6:45am to 10:15am on both days at Mouchel Balham base, Yukon Court, Yukon Road, Balham SW12, Mouchel Wandsworth base, Jessica House, Red Lion Square and Wandsworth High Street, Wandsworth SW18.’
News Line spoke to Paul Grafton, a GMB officer, on the picket line.
He said, ‘When it was sub-contracted from Wandsworth, Mouchel under-bid the contract knowing full well they couldn’t give the staff a decent standard of living.’
One of the pickets also said: ‘We haven’t been given a rate of inflation pay rise for at least ten years and we have to work a six-day week to make ends meet.’
There was a rally outside Wandsworth Town Hall on Friday from 11.30am and there will be a rally today at 11.30am in the same place.
‘Mouchel employ the parking attendants, whose official title is Civil Enforcement Officers, working out of two bases, one in Balham and one in Wandsworth Town.’
Kieron Merrett, GMB Organiser, said, ‘GMB was hopeful that Mouchel could make an offer to members today which would avert strike action.
‘Unfortunately Mouchel was only willing to discuss an offer that would redistribute, but not increase, its previous offer which GMB members had already rejected.
‘Wandsworth Council must not hide behind companies like Mouchel. According to the RAC Foundation Wandsworth makes a surplus of £16m after running costs from parking.
‘The council must take responsibility and ensure its enforcement officers are paid a decent living wage.
‘A GMB living wage is set at a level to ensure GMB members can live without being in poverty and without claiming benefits. Companies like Mouchel which pay poverty wages must be held to account.’
• Meanwhile, ambulance workers, also in the GMB union and other health workers have voted in favour of strike action in a dispute over pay.
In the ballot, 78% of members in England and Northern Ireland voted in favour of strike action.
They will join other staff, including nurses, midwives and porters, in a four-hour walkout on 13 October.
GMB said: ‘Ministers have given NHS staff a 1% increase, but not for those who get automatic progression-in-the-job rises.
‘These are designed to reward professional development and are given to about half of staff and are worth 3% a year on average.
‘But the decision by ministers went against the recommendation of the independent pay review board, which had called for an across-the-board rise.’
Brian Strutton, the GMB national secretary for public services, said: ‘Nobody in the NHS wants to go on strike, but the anger and frustration of the workforce with the cavalier treatment by government and employers towards them has spilled over into industrial unrest.
‘GMB and the other trade unions on the staff side hope this programme of action will get some movement in this deadlock and we will plan further periods of action through the autumn and winter if it does not.’
The GMB balloted 22,000 members in total, covering a range of jobs from ambulance crews to district nurses and cleaners. The walkout will start at 07:00 and last for four hours. It will be followed by a period of working to rule.
The unions say urgent and emergency services will not be affected. Instead, they will target non-urgent care such as hospital outpatient appointments, routine surgery, patient transport and community clinics.
A total of 10 health unions have balloted members. Results from the biggest two – Unison and Unite – have already been announced.
Both voted in favour of a strike, while Royal College of Midwives members are also taking action for the first time. All these unions balloted members in England only. It is the first walkout over pay for 32 years.
• Funding that previously was used to provide services in children’s centres has been moved by Northamptonshire County Council to the Library plus services, says GMB.
GMB, that represents the public sector staff, attended consultation meetings on 29th September with the charity organisation Spurgeons on the future of contracted out children’s centres in Northamptonshire.
Spurgeons took over the running of 15 children’s centres in Northamptonshire earlier this month after Northamptonshire County Council awarded them a £2.7m contracts in May.
GMB members and employees were advised that they are at risk of redundancy, that there would be cuts in hours of work, and that volunteers would be used in place of paid staff.
There are also potential threats to vital community services run in the centres like Midwife and MP’s Surgeries and adult education services.
Rachelle Wilkins, GMB Regional Officer, said, ‘These centres and services are absolutely vital for parents and children in the local community.
‘This is just a further example of a Tory-led government hitting the most vulnerable in society. Funding that previously was used to provide services in these centres has been moved by Northamptonshire County Council to the Library plus services.
‘Staff are devastated after putting so much hard work and dedication into building rapport with the parents and children. There is now uncertainty as to the future provision of services, current opening hours of the centres and even the same familiar faces of staff on a daily basis.
‘Parents and service providers are going to be consulted on the future services at the centres. GMB cannot urge them strongly enough to make it very clear how much they need and rely on these services and to fight to keep the services in the future.
‘It has to be made clear to Northamptonshire County Council that they cannot dodge their responsibilities to properly fund these centres.’