- Created: Tuesday, 19 June 2012 14:01
- Written by Newcastle FRFI
On Saturday 26th May 2012 supporters of FRFI joined more than 50 people in a protest in solidarity with the Churchill Metro cleaners. The action was called by the Anti Cuts Network and along with the RMT, Socialist Party, North East Anarchists, Alliance for Workers Liberty and independent activists they took to the Tyne and Wear Metro to protest against attacks on the cleaners pay and conditions and against victimisation and job losses.
They handed out leaflets to the passengers, spoke to them about the struggle and asked them to sign letters of support to be later handed in to the Transport Authority. The police and some of the DB Regio Metro staff attempted to stop leaflets being handed out and even stop activists speaking to passengers! They claimed there is a by-law on the Metro which prohibits passengers from being ‘pestered’. Activists persisted and with a strategy of getting on and off Metros and splitting up, the police and DB Regio staff gave up and left. No arrests were made. There was a lot of support form the passengers, with no reports of anyone feeling pestered.
Metro was part privatised and sub-contracted out to German company DB Regio in 2010, this company has in turn contacted out cleaning services to private company Churchill.
The cleaners are one of the worst paid staff on the Metro, getting the bare minimum wage of £6.08 an hour. Despite Churchill’s profits increasing year on year and jumping by more than 80% last year, after recent negotiations with the Transport Union RMT they returned an offer of a 0% pay increase and claimed this was ‘generous’. This is an effective pay cut to already poverty levels of pay when you take in to consideration the increased cost of living.
On top of this the cleaners have no sick-pay scheme, no pension scheme, no free travel on the system they keep clean (this is quite rightly enjoyed by other Metro staff) and Churchill have threatened to scrap paid meal breaks and change pay to monthly rather than weekly. One cleaner has been sacked for complaining about short staffing and excessive workloads in the comments section on a company form.
These kinds of attacks will continue as the economic crisis worsens. On top of the cuts to public services the government’s war on the working class includes privatisation, job losses, pushing down wages, conditions and rights as well as increased military intervention and support for occupations abroad so that more profits can be squeezed from the working class internationally. If we are to be successful there needs to be a sustained fight back which links up the different struggles against the British state from Tyne and Wear to Tripoli and the West Bank and which puts socialism at the centre as the only alternative to imperialist exploitation and domination.
In the campaign to obtain free travel passes for the Churchill Cleaners from Nexus there was another protest called by the RMT and joined by FRFI supporters on Thursday 31st May 2012 outside Newcastle Civic Centre during the annual meeting of the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority (ITA). Churchill refused to give leave to most of the cleaners so they were unable to attend, this was another attempt to stamp out dissent and united action. Around 30 people attended early in the morning where a big pile of letters was handed in to a reluctant senior member of the ITA.
In the fight for better pay and against the victimisation of workers, including the cleaner who was sacked, RMT members have voted overwhelmingly in support of strike action in three separate ballots (between 70 and 100%).
All DB Regio RMT members working on the Tyne & Wear Metro to strike on Thursday 7th and Thursday 21st June 2012. Churchill cleaners to strike between 10.30pm on Sunday 10th June and 10.30pm on Tuesday 12th June 2012 and no overtime to be worked during this time.
For more information and frequent updates visit: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Campaign-for-Tyne-Wear-Cleaners/172330572839588
Support the cleaners! Support the strike! End poverty pay! No to victimisation!
Please put your name to the letter below and email to Churchill Cleaning Services
I _________________________ write to you to register my 100% support for the dispute of the Churchill cleaners on the Tyne and Wear Metro, this includes backing all strike action they take.
I am a regular user of Metro and I am appalled to find out about how the cleaning staff are being treated by Churchill. I will consider boycotting Metro if the cleaners’ demands are not met.
Despite Churchill's profits soaring by 81% last year, the decision to sell off Metro cleaning to private contractors means the cleaners suffer many detriments in terms and conditions, wages and travel facilities. Cleaning staff are on minimum wage, they have created Churchill’s profits, they do not deserve terms and conditions of employment to be smashed in the interests of greed by this employer.
I support the Cleaners’ demands:
The company has offered no percentage increase at all to the minimum wage staff, who earn just £6.08 an hour.
The re-instatement of the cleaner who was sacked for complaining about short staffing
Better terms, conditions and facilities including decent sick-pay and pension arrangements
No cuts to hours and paid breaks
No job losses
In a letter to Labour MP's across Tyne and Wear a Churchill boss threatened to look at job cuts if he could not scrap paid meal breaks to boost profits.
The provision of free leisure travel to Churchill Tyne and Wear Metro Cleaners
Other Tyne and Wear Metro staff, including Nexus and DB Regio staff, quite rightly enjoy this travel facility. It should be rolled out to all Metro staff.
Amnesty from facing any disciplinary proceedings because of taking part in political activity around this dispute