CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Parking wardens tell of ‘invasive’ level of surveillance at work

Civil enforcement officers ready to strike for the third time since 2011

13 September, 2018 — By William McLennan

PARKING wardens who are set to take strike action over pay say they are constantly monitored by bosses, with the threat of punishment if they do not log their location every five minutes.

Staff now known as civil enforcement officers, who are employed by Camden Council’s contractor NSL, said the “invasive” level of checks means they must use a handheld computer to alert bosses of their every move, including short toilet breaks. Represented by Camden Unison, they are due to strike over what they have called “desperately low pay”.

Describing working conditions – which, as the New Journal reported last month, includes racist abuse and physical assault at the hands of angry drivers – one NSL employee said: “If you want to go to the toilet, you have to log it. If you are going to buy water, you have to log it. If you want to sit down to rest your feet, you have to log it. If you forget, it’s a disciplinary.”

The employee, who asked not to be named for fear he would be singled out for speaking publicly, said that the majority-black workforce faces regular racial and physical abuse.

“They [angry drivers] say ‘go back to your country’,” he said. “People from Africa and Caribbean, they are told to go back to their country. On the street there is racist abuse, some have cried because of racist abuse. Some will say, ‘do you have a passport to work this job?’ It has got worse. A lot of us have been spat upon or hit.”

In a recent case a warden was attacked with a metal chain, used to lock a motorcycle, leaving him in hospital with serious injuries.

Camden Council last year received £26million in “surplus” from parking tickets, which is ringfenced to be spent on transport projects.

The pay dispute with NSL centres on Camden Unison’s request that wardens be paid £11.50 per hour. They currently receive £10 an hour. The London Living Wage is £10.20.

Union members voted overwhelmingly in support of a walkout, which is the third time parking wardens have taken industrial action since 2011.

Liz Wheatley, head of Camden Unison, said: “In today’s society it is pretty scandalous, especially in a borough like Camden that professes to have ethical employment practises and ethical procurement, that we can end up with a predominantly black, low-paid workforce forced to have to take strike action every single time they want to try and get a pay increase.”

NSL said in a statement: “Civil enforcement officers (CEOs) can sadly be subject to abuse, including violence, from members of the public. All CEOs complete conflict resolution training that teaches them how to identify and withdraw from situations that present risk, and each carries a button that will trigger immediate assistance from supervisors and nearby colleagues.”

It added: “NSL offers counselling to all CEOs returning to work after an incident, in addition to on-street support. “CEOs are monitored to ensure they are carrying out their roles as expected, and so we can provide the London borough of Camden and the public with assurance and transparency. The information monitored includes permits that have been checked, penalty charge notices that have been issued, locations and any conversations with members of the public, and supervisors will also undertake spot checks to provide further evidence and assurance.”

The company continued: “NSL has offered a three-year deal comprising a 4.5 per cent pay increase this year, much higher than other public sector pay deals and well above the rate of inflation. “We regret that Unison has not chosen to accept this offer, which takes into account the increase in London living costs while remaining affordable to Camden council.”

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