15 October 2021

Why I'm striking in the Royal Parks

A Royal Parks striker tells us why they are striking and the difficult conditions working as a cleaner in the park

I am striking because I really want fairness, we aren’t being treated well at all. Amongst all of the staff in the parks we deal with the public more than most, hundreds of people every day, that means we are more at risk. Even when incidents happen, often management aren’t on our side. So it’s particularly difficult. We are the most at risk, but we don’t even have sick pay, I am worried every day that anything happens, not only do I feel like I don’t have the support of my management, but I will be left in real financial difficulty. It just feels like Just Ask and the Royal Parks don’t care.

Having proper sick pay would have a huge impact on me. I’m a single mother, so I can’t afford any time off if I am ill. I have to come to work, then go home and look after my children. It means I have no time to recover at all. I’m ill for longer and worn down.

Can’t afford to stay at home

Even if my children are ill I don’t get any paid time off. It’s just more stress and worry. One of my older friends I have seen come in to work barely able to move because she simply cannot afford to stay home. Add into this a pandemic. All the risks are worse, but we still have to come in, and still get no sick pay. It’s heart breaking. So having proper sick pay would be lifechanging for me and my colleagues.

I work alone in the parks, so do many of my colleagues, it causes so many problems. Sometimes there are groups who want to cause trouble. They might want to throw things or shout at you. Where I work the CCTV doesn’t work anymore, it used to work but when it broke, they didn’t fix it. It just shows again why we feel like they don’t care. I’m scared that if anything happens, they won’t believe me.

Not only is sick pay a huge issue, but just getting the right pay is difficult enough. Any adjustments to pay, overtime, or needing time off to look after my children are always calculated wrong. One month to the next I don’t know what money I will receive. We don’t get pay slips far enough in advance to do anything about it.

One month you might have more than you expect, then they take it off you the next month with no explanation. I don’t have a lot of disposable income, so the money that goes into my account is used. So when money is not there and I am expecting it, it makes it very difficult.

If Just Ask wants to resolve the dispute, it’s simple. They need to treat us fairly. Our previous employer agreed with the Royal Parks to give us sick pay. They should honour that. It’s the right thing to do, and will take a big step in showing they do care.

It will be a huge relief for us, solve lots of stress that if anything happens, and we get ill, we will be able to put food on the table. Then they need to talk to our union about the other issues. Start working with us to fix some of the other problems like the CCTV and wage slip issues. Those things we can work through together, but first they need to give us sick pay.

Support the strikers at a protest from 9am to noon on 20 October at the Old Police House in Hyde Park.

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