London congestion charge could hit staffing levels, warns union

Unison is calling on London mayor Ken Livingstone to postpone the
introduction of congestion charges next month until an assessment
can be carried out into how it will affect public sector

In a letter sent this week, the public sector union has urged
Livingstone to reconsider the £5 daily charge for travelling
into central London.

It has raised concerns that those workers who need to use a car to
travel to work, and would have to pay the costs themselves, will
decide to take up jobs outside the capital’s centre. The union also
fears that the introduction of the scheme will mean councils will
be forced to foot the bills of its workers who use cars as part of
their work.

Under the plans, social workers employed by the eight councils that
fall within the charging zone will be among those whose jobs are
not considered vital and who will therefore not be eligible for
exemption (news, page 10, 10 August 2002).

Unison’s greater London regional secretary Nick Wright said:
“Unison fears the trickle of resignations from vital front-line
services will become a flood when congestion charging begins in

“The majority of public sector workers are not well paid and the
effective freezing of London weighting by many employers has
compounded recruitment and retention problems,” he added.

Hundreds of voluntary and community groups based within the zone
may also be expected to pay a daily charge, prompting fears that
the sector will lose staff and volunteers.

Bernard Collier, director of charity Voluntary Action Westminster,
said the scheme could have a positive effect on the environment but
that there were worries that it would be a disincentive to

He added that congestion charges would place financial burdens on
voluntary organisations, some of which had contacted him with
concerns. Many would not be able to meet the costs of the scheme
for their paid staff and were unsure whether they would be entitled
to exemption from the scheme.

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