For several weeks now, essential workers at London's Royal Parks have been striking to demand more just pay and support from their employers.

Key workers represented by the PCS union, including cleaners and playground attendants at Royal Parks, walked out on October 1 after they said various issues put to their employers Just Ask Estate Services Ltd., who are contracted by Royal Parks, were not addressed.

PCS say that their members, who continued to work throughout several deadly waves of Covid-19 during the ongoing pandemic, deserved improved sick pay and conditions.

For example, the union said that some workers were previously only offered six days paid sick pay, meaning that if they would face a financial impact if they were forced to self-isolate for the recommended period as a result of the Covid-19 virus.

They have won support from several big names in the labour movement including ex-Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, and former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who joined their on the picket line.

"There were lots to issues with regards to their payslips, hours contracted, holiday pay. Subsequently as members became sick one way or another, issues surrounding their sick pay. All of these issues rolled together to form the basis for the strike. So it's related to issues of service but they have become more acute because of the pandemic," PCS Officer Steven Warwick told the RTT.

"Sick pay should be a right and the pandemic has focused minds on these significant issues. It is not just an issue for members but it's a public health issue," he added, pointing out that there was a risk of disrupting self-isolation rules because of the financial bind lacking or insufficient sick pay would place members in. "That's not a decision anyone should have to make, and that loss of pay is not something these workers can bare easily. They've got children to feed, they've got mortgages, they've got rent and bills to pay," he said.

The union organiser added that PCS were negotiating with Just Ask Services during the strike and had already made progress on some demands.

The clock is now ticking on whether the remaining workers' grievances can be addressed before the key winter months for Royal Parks that include Hyde Park's famous and hugely anticipated Winter Wonderland.

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

The RTT contacted The Royal Parks for a comment on the strike. A spokesperson offered the following statement:

"We are aware of strike action by some cleaning staff now employed by Just Ask Estates Limited, a recent contractor of ours, as part of a dispute that dates back to the previous contract-holder. In line with many other organisations, we contract out cleaning services, and many other services integral to maintaining the parks, and the terms and conditions of staff employed by those contractors are decided by their employers. All cleaning staff have been paid London Living Wage since 2019. We acknowledge and understand the issues raised but cannot comment further due to legal reasons. We will continue to work closely with our partners, suppliers and contractors to ensure that terms and conditions for all those who work as part of the wider Parks’ teams are fair and appropriate."

The spokesperson added that they had continued to keep open the "majority" of public toilets they manage open during the strike and would "continue to review the situation" regarding any future actions in November and December.

Just Ask Estate Services Ltd. were contacted for comment.