Cycling instructors in Enfield and Haringey could go on strike over a 12-year pay freeze and “worsening” terms and conditions.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) announced that 34 cycling instructors working in the two boroughs would be balloted for strike action, which it warns would cause “significant disruption” to the councils’ year-round cycle training when schools reopen in September.

Instructors staged a protest outside Enfield Civic Centre on July 14 to demand an end to the 12-year pay freeze that the union claims amounts to a 30 per cent real-terms pay cut.

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They are also unhappy with “unfair” cancellation policies that can lose them a week’s work one working day before a course starts – cutting their pay by as much as £500 a week with no way of finding replacement work.

IWGB president Alex Marshall said: “Cycling instructors cannot continue working under these exploitative conditions, and action is needed now.

“The councillors for Enfield and Haringey must take responsibility, engage with the workers and give them the pay and conditions they more than deserve.”

Michael McSherry, chair of the IWGB’s cycling instructors branch, said strike action was a “sad, last resort” after the councils “refused to enter any form of negotiation or commit to change”.

Both councils outsource their cycle training to a firm called Cycle Confident, which has also been informed of the strike ballot.

An Enfield Council spokesperson said it continued to respond to all correspondence received by IWGB and had asked members to provide examples where cancellations have impacted on pay, so that it could better understand their concerns. It also denied the IWGB’s claim that local authorities fundamentally decide the instructors’ pay, terms and conditions.

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But union branch chair Michael claimed the council could state that it wants to improve instructors’ terms and conditions at the next contract tendering process and put pressure on the provider to make those improvements straightaway. 

He said almost 100 per cent of the work that would have been done by instructors had been cancelled because of the pandemic, so they were essentially being asked by the council to provide information going back 18 months prior to now. The IWGB had gone back to the council on this point, he added.

A council spokesperson said: “We will discuss with our cycle training provider, with a view to updating our contract to be clear that we expect anyone involved in the organisation and delivery of cycle training to receive a minimum of the London Living Wage, and that naturally they are paid for all the hours they are required to work.”

The spokesperson added: “We understand that cycle instructors working in Enfield receive £18 per hour, with those working towards full qualification receiving £15 per hour. Instructors with our delivery provider are typically self-employed, but that current rate of pay is above the London Living Wage, which is £10.85 per hour.

“We are aware that Transport for London (TfL) is discussing cancellation policy with the Bikeability Trust, who in turn are consulting with the industry. TfL provides funding for cycle training, and we will work with it and our cycle training delivery partner to bring forward any updates to cancellation policy, based on any recommendations that are made.”

Haringey Council indicated its cycling instructors service could be insourced in future.

Mike Hakata, deputy leader and cabinet member for environment, transport and the climate emergency, said: “During informal conversations with the cycling instructors and the IWGB, councillor Julie Davies and I have made it clear to them that we saw an insourced service as having merit, and, since becoming cabinet members, we have requested that options relating to this be explored, and it is now underway.

“All participating London boroughs are faced with similar obstacles in this instance, with our funding for cycling proficiency coming entirely from TfL, and the government funding agreement does duly have a knock-on effect in terms of the ability of London councils like ourselves to raise the standards of pay and conditions.”

Cllr Hakata added that the council had “raised these issues with our main funder on cycling in TfL, and we are actively working with them on solutions to the issues raised by the IWBG”. He said the council had held a meeting with the IWGB on 7th May to begin preliminary discussions around the cycling instructors’ pay, terms and conditions, and had offered to meet the union again.

Michael McSherry said the IWGB had received a much warmer response from Haringey and was happy to develop that further. But he said it needed to keep putting pressure on Cycle Confident to act, warning the future of the councils’ workforce was at stake.

Cycle Confident was also approached for comment.