Over 100 Camden traffic wardens take indefinite strike action

UNISON members working for private company NSL have been on strike for a month in a dispute over pay

Workers picketing

Over 100 London traffic wardens have been on an indefinite strike since 24 July, after a meagre pay offer of 4.5% from NSL, a company subcontracted by Camden Council.

UNISON members unanimously voted for strike action, with more workers joining the picket as the weeks roll on.

The wardens, who are mainly low-paid Black staff, work outdoors for 42.5 hours a week, in all weather, and were classified as key workers during the pandemic. They regularly receive racist abuse for carrying out their work.

They are paid £12.70 an hour, and have called for an increase to £15.90 an hour. Signs on the picket line (pictured below) read ‘NSL: No Slave Labour’.

Workers on picket line holding placards that read 'pay rise now: no slave labour' and 'Camden council: no slave labour'

UNISON members picket Camden Council offices

Employer NSL saw its profits almost double from £5.8m in 2021 to £9.2m in 2022. The company director received a 60% pay increase in this period, and is salaried at £412,000. 

UNISON has calculated that it would take one of the traffic wardens 16 years to earn the same amount the director receives in one year. 

The traffic wardens are determined to continue the strike until their demand for fair pay is met. 

UNISON steward Emmanuel said: “The cost of food is still very high. A lot of the officers are borrowing money. Credit card bills are up. We need a cushion. They are always offering us just pennies – it’s not enough to pay rent and take care of our families.”

Workers have been picketing Camden Council and received messages of solidarity from across the country. Last week, 35 strikers picketed the head office of Marston Holdings, the parent company to NSL. They were joined by UNISON members from Birmingham and Sandwell local government branches.

“We wanted to take our grievances to them,” a striker who visited Birmingham said. “We want a pay rise and we want them to know about it. We’re doing a job for them and getting abused on the streets.

“They need to know how we feel—it’s not fair. We go through all this, not even for £15 an hour, while they profit. At Christmas, NSL gives us £5. That’s it for a year’s abuse. And if you’re off that day, you don’t even get given it. These are the companies we’re killing ourselves for. We deserve better.”

UNISON Camden branch secretary Liz Wheatley said: “I’m proud of how determined our members are to take a stand and fight for fair pay – they are prepared to follow this through to the end. They work long hours doing a difficult job and deserve decent pay.”

“These workers are employed by private companies that make millions out of their labour, but who refuse to pay them enough money to live on.”

As the strike goes on, Camden Council continues to pay NSL for its contract. The union has called for the council to get involved and ensure wardens are paid proper wages.

There are plenty of actions that UNISON members can take to support the strikers.

UNISON Camden invites all union members to join the pickets (details below).

Picket line details:

13-15 Guilford Street WC1N 1DW – Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, 7.30-10am

199 Belsize Road NW6 4AA – Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursdays, 7-10am

Regis Road NW5 3EW – Tuesday, Thursday, Fridays, 7-10am

To find out what else you can do to support strikers: email unison@camden.gov.uk