The dispute over low pay in local government is set to run aground at the prestigious Tall Ships Festival in Greenwich this weekend.
A total of 17 car parking staff at Greenwich Council will strike for 48 hours from 00.01 on Friday (5 September), which their union, Unite, says will cause havoc with the temporary parking restrictions introduced as thousands of visitors descend on the borough for the five day event.
Unite, the country’s largest union, said that many low paid council employees could not even afford a ticket for a ride on one of the Tall Ships. The union has dubbed the council’s involvement in the event as ‘a vanity project’.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: "I will be frank - rather than a Tall Ships Festival - which is a vanity project, the majority of my members just want fair pay. Maybe then, our members could actually afford a ticket for a ride on one of these vessels - rather than being taken for a ride as far as pay is concerned."
Nationally, Unite, along with other unions, is seeking a £1-an-hour increase in pay for the country’s local council workforce which has 400,000 employees earning below £15,000 a year and a million earning less than £21,000. The workforce is mainly female and part-time
Onay Kasab added: "The council has already contacted us to ask that we exempt certain workers, as without that exemption, some of the events linked to the festival will have to be called off. We have refused that exemption request.
“The strike would have a significant impact on any day - but the council has admitted to the union that it will have a very significant impact on the ability of the council to run the festival. Parking havoc is on the cards.
“The local Unite branch in Greenwich has long criticised the money spent on the festival - this includes trips abroad for councillors and senior council managers so that they can see how it is s done in other countries.
“The union has pointed out that, while the council expecting to make over £60 million of cuts, the cheapest adult single ticket for a trip on the ships costs £49.50. Councillors need to rethink their priorities.”
Onay Kasab said that the council employs learning support assistants who work a 32 hour week for £12,000-a-year.
“This is not enough to buy a house, nor afford to rent in affluent Greenwich. Yet councillors in Greenwich receive more in allowances than these workers do for ensuring children receive the education they deserve."
For further information please contact Unite regional officer Onay Kasab on 07771818637 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.