Camden parking wardens threaten to strike during Olympics

Camden parking wardens could down tools and strike in a dispute that may see council coffers lose �50,000 a day in parking ticket revenue.

Union chiefs are poised to ballot their members for industrial action over demands for wardens to be paid �10 an hour - the rate given to attendants in other boroughs.

If the strike goes ahead it is likely to take place in July or August.

Trade union chiefs have not ruled out calling a walkout during the Olympic Games, saying only that this was something they would consider nearer the time.

The move is another blow to a service that has been mired in controversy, with two traffic wardens arrested at Camden’s parking offices last November on suspicion of having fake passports.

A warden, who spoke to the Ham&High on condition of anonymity, painted a bleak picture of a “reign of terror” at the service, which is run by private company NSL.

She said: “The staff are treated like crap. It’s a reign of terror across the board.

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“Most of the wardens are African, vulnerable and unable to stick up for themselves. It’s not a happy environment to work in.”

News of the possible strike was welcomed by motorists, who have complained that Camden Council clobbers its residents with too many costly parking tickets.

Vishal Vora, 31, a PHD law student at SOAS University in Bloomsbury rides a scooter through Camden everyday and has contested several parking tickets.

He said: “I don’t think drivers will mourn the loss of the wardens for a day if they do take action. Camden makes a lot of money from its parking tickets and drivers have a tough time of it.”

The council took �17,849,000 in parking tickets in the 2010-2011 financial year, meaning Camden could lose out on �50,000 a day if wardens walk out.

John Mann, branch secretary of Unison trade union, said the current �8.06 wage given to wardens is “peanuts”.

He said: “These wardens are facing a very stressful job, having to suffer verbal and physical abuse from members of the public.

“By all accounts, NSL is not an easy company to work for. The general day to day experience is one of extreme pressure.”

An NSL spokesman said: “Unison has been demanding an increase in pay of 30 per cent which is unrealistic. It is particularly disappointing that they are balloting members to strike near the time of the Olympics, so as to cause maximum disruption to the public .

“As a company we feel the level of staff pay is fair and accurately reflects the requirements of the roles.

“NSL is recognised as an industry leader for its fair treatment of staff and the package of pay and benefits we offer is attractive. Despite pay freezes in much of the public sector, our staff has been given salary increases in the past two successive years and we are currently offering a further rise this year.

“Our packages for employees also includes training, career development and other benefits. The value and quality of our packages are reflected by our staff turnover rate, which is much lower than the industry average.

“Amidst very tough economic conditions, we’ve made it a priority to keep as many people employed as possible and we will continue to do so as we head back into a recession.”

A council spokeswoman said the authority is monitoring the situation.