London's Royal Parks to pay attendants living wage following strikes

Aaron Walawalkar
Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/REX/Shutterstock

Park attendants at seven central London green spaces will now be paid the London living wage after a wave of coordinated strikes.

Their union, United Voices of the World (UVW), said the board of Royal Parks – a charity which manages Hyde Park and St James’s Park, among others – agreed to increase workers’ salaries after it threatened to escalate industrial action on Thursday.

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The parks’ roughly 50 attendants – who are employed by French outsourcing giant Vinci – will now see their wages increase from £8.21 an hour to £10.75, backdated to 1 November. However, the union is still locked in a dispute with Vinci over allegations that workers are being prevented from taking their full holiday entitlement.

Antonietta Marro, 50, was among the dozens of attendants who took part in a week of strike action in October alongside cleaners from an office on Gray’s Inn Road that houses ITN and more than 150 cleaners at St Mary’s hospital, all of whom work for other outsourcing firms.

“The money we are getting, it constricts you with everything,” said Marro. “I just want dignity and respect … living in London and you are still on poverty wages. It is ridiculous. This is my only income.”

Marro has worked for nine years at Regent’s Park and Kensington Gardens as a playground attendant. She said news of the pay increase was “exciting” but that she would not be able to relax until the money “was on her payslip”.

“One of the workers told me that she can now afford to go home to Ghana and visit her family,” said Petros Elias, UVW’s co-founder and organiser, who added that most park attendants are migrants. “This is a victory for all workers everywhere who have been told that they don’t deserve more than the minimum wage or that their employer would or could never pay more. Remember that neither is true.”

He said about 15 attendants are taking Vinci to an employment tribunal over claims that they have been blocked from using their full statutory holiday entitlement.

A Royal Parks spokesperson said: “We are pleased to announce that we have agreed that Vinci staff working on Royal Parks contracts will now be paid the London living wage (LLW). The change took effect on 1 November this year. This is in line with our policy, which is to pay LLW at the renewal or let of new contracts.”

Vinci has been approached for comment.

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