Royal Parks gardeners in protest

Pay dispute with employer OCS triggers first strike action by Royal Parks gardeners for 37 years.

Image: GMB
Image: GMB

Gardeners at The Royal Parks downed tools for the first time in 37 years on 26 May in a pay dispute with their employer OCS.

Staff protested outside Downing Street, where they maintain the gardens, over plans to move from weekly to monthly pay, and picketed St James's Park, Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. The 12-hour strike was timed to affect the state opening of Parliament, with flower beds at Buckingham Palace left unplanted when the Queen passed by.

OCS won the contract last year for grounds maintenance in Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St James's Park, The Green Park, Grosvenor Square and Brompton Cemetery, providing services including litter picking, refuse collection and all horticulture work. Union GMB said the move from weekly to monthly pay will leave members shortchanged. OCS has offered an interest-free loan to cover the gap between pay dates, to be repaid over 12 months.

The union said members were not consulted and OCS was saving thousands of pounds while putting employees in financial hardship. The two weeks' pay owed would only be paid back when staff left the company, the GMB said.

The GMB claims some members are also not paid a living wage despite OCS being an accredited Living Wage employer.

However, OCS told the Mirror Online it had staggered the changeover period and lengthened the loan repayment period to minimize the impact on employees. The change was needed to consolidate its UK payroll, increase efficiency and reduce errors, it explained.

Dispute timeline

Summer 2014 - OCS begins seven-year Royal Parks landscape maintenance contract.

6 February 2015 - OCS writes to employees at St James's Park to give notice of change from weekly to monthly pay.

13 February - GMB seeks meeting with OCS on pay-related issues.

1 May - GMB members balloted over strike action.

12 May - Talks held between GMB union and OCS at ACAS.

15 May - Members agree to strike.

26 May - Twelve-hour strike held - staff picket parks and protest outside Downing Street.

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