Keeping off the grass

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Royal Park gardeners and GMB union members held a 24 hour strike on Tuesday 26th May due to changes made to their contracts by outsourcing giant OCS. This was the first strike of Royal Park gardeners since 1978.

The gardeners work on a large variety of London’s much loved city parks including; Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St James’s Park, Green Park and Brompton Cemetery. They also tend Downing Street Gardens, to which David Cameron returned last month, with plans to tackle trade unions and organised strikes head on.

Changes to the workers’ pay and conditions are being put through by Outsourced Client Solutions (OSC) who recently acquired the contract for running the parks in late 2014. Staff claim the changes leave them with less pay and poorer working conditions.

GMB regional officer Gary Carter said: “Employment relations have been good down the years, but since OCS took over the contract in August 2014 staff morale has rapidly deteriorated because of repeated attempts to worsen their pay and conditions.”

Adding, “Now OCS wants to hold back two week’s pay our members have already earned which will put these lower paid staff into debt. The management’s action will cause unnecessary financial hardship.”

There are disputes over changes to the staff’s pay moving from weekly to monthly pay packets. This change has left the gardeners with two weeks of their pay being withheld from them until a later date, with OCS offering to loan the money to them and have staff pay it back over 12 months. Many of the staff however feel they have already earned it and do not want to be in debt to their employers.

There are also issues of reducing new starters pay by £35 a week, reduction in overtime rates and gardeners being paid less than the London Living Wage.

Gary Carter stated, “The staff and gardeners are proud of the work they do which is admired by Londoners and by visitors from all around the world.”

They deserve to be treated with decency and respect and to earn a reasonable living. The Royal Parks should also not sit back and let this happen.”

Further action is planned for the June 12th when Royal Park gardeners will go strike for 48 hours, starting at one minute past midnight on Friday 12th until 11:59 pm on Saturday 13th. This will coincide with the Trooping the Colour Ceremony on the 13th with a GMB spokesperson saying, “things won’t be as shiny and pristine as they would normally be.”

Representative from Royal Parks was available for comment.

 

To follow further strike action, you can keep updated at www.gmb.org.uk

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