Royal Parks on strike (John Moloney's column)

Submitted by AWL on 5 October, 2021 - 10:19 Author: John Moloney
Royal Parks strike

Outsourced cleaners and attendants in London’s Royal Parks are striking throughout October. We began the strike with a successful rally on 1 October. We have more workers participating in the strike this time, which is a good sign, especially as a month-long strike is a significant escalation.

We’ve had good support from across the labour movement. Jeremy Corbyn and Andy McDonald sent solidarity greetings, and John McDonnell addressed the strike rally. Fundraising is particularly important, as we want to ensure strike pay at a level as close as possible to workers’ full wages. We don’t want to see our members being starved back to work.

We have a meeting with the company on 7 October. We hopeful for a settlement but are planning that no deal will be struck. With participation in the strike growing, we hope the old adage “the longer the picket line, the shorter the strike” will apply. If we can win without having to strike for the whole month, that’ll be excellent. But our members are prepared to see the strike through if our demands aren’t met.

Driving examiners have now voted overwhelmingly to strike against imposed increases to workload, with over 90% voting yes on a turnout of over 80%. Strikes are planned for 18-19 October, and we are planning for more action in late October and November. A renewed ballot will also take place over four weeks shortly in the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DLVA) complex in Swansea, where our dispute about Covid safety continues.

The Tories have begun blaming the DVLA dispute for the HGV driver shortage, but this is desperate nonsense. Management at DVLA Swansea continue to insist on increasing the number of staff working in the office, despite rising Covid cases amongst the workforce. The dispute also includes other issues, such as how management treat workers with “Long Covid”, and underlying it all is a set of principles about how the workplace is run. In immediate terms it is a dispute about workplace safety, but it is also by proxy dispute about control and power in the workplace.

We are also hopeful of progress in our campaign to get the employer to recognise building-wide workplace safety committees in sites where multiple government departments occupy a single building. The union has met with the Government Property Agency, the body which oversees the running of much of the civil service estate and they have agreed to run a pilot of the joint committee in a large building in London. If successful this should model should be run out across the rest of the estate. In any case, we are encouraging our reps to convene them as rank-and-file bodies for the purposes of workplace organising over safety issues.

• John Moloney is assistant general secretary of the civil service workers’ union PCS, writing here in a personal capacity

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