Protesters demand change to 'totally unfair' city worker contracts

Protesters out in support for the NCSL workers due to strike later this week

Protesters out in support for the NCSL workers due to strike later this week - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Protesters turned out in Norwich for “the guys who are low paid and hard-working” as they called for better pay for the city’s street cleaners and park workers.

Some 400 workers, previously employed by Norfolk County Council-owned company Norse, transferred to an arms-length company called Norwich City Services Ltd (NCSL), run by the Labour-controlled city council. 

The new service began on Thursday, April 1, and since then members of Unite and Unison have started industrial action due to disputes over pay and conditions, with a five-day strike planned to start on Wednesday. 

NCSL protesters outside the St Andrew's Hall 

NCSL protesters outside the St Andrew's Hall - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Protesters gathered outside St Andrews Hall on Monday, where the city council was holding its annual meeting, calling on councillors to lend them their support. 

The crowd was largely made up of union representatives, with many of the employees at work.  

“These guys have worked hard, in all kinds of weather, and we just want decent pay for them,” said a union convenor for NCSL, who asked not to be named. 

Adam Oakes of Unite 

Adam Oakes of Unite - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Representatives for Unite and Unison said they were hopeful the strike could be avoided if their terms were met in the ongoing negotiations with NCSL and the council.

“They have put in an improved offer and we have gone back to them asking for some further improvement,” said Adam Oakes from Unite. 

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“If they are confirmed this afternoon, we intended to do visits with our members tomorrow and do a ballot over the next two days. 

“If that is acceptable, we will stop the strike.” 

Jonathan Dunning from Unison, one of the organisers of the protest

Jonathan Dunning from Unison, one of the organisers of the protest - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Green Party councillors joined the protesters, with Jamie Osborn calling the contract terms “totally unfair”. 

“The council needs to have a look again at where its priorities lie,” he said.  

Ahead of the protest, a spokesperson for Norwich City Council said they were disappointed an agreement had not been reached to date. 

Green Party Councillors Paul Neale, Jamie Osborn and Sandra Bogelein at the NCSL protest

Green Party Councillors Paul Neale, Jamie Osborn and Sandra Bogelein at the NCSL protest - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

They said: “The company has made three offers of improved terms and conditions to the new workforce.  

“It has also made commitments to offer further improvements in future years, tied to the success of the company. 

“The company will continue to negotiate with the trade unions to find a resolution, and ensure NCSL is successful in delivering what it needs to– not only for its staff but also for the city’s residents who rely on them to keep essential services going.” 

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