Workers for CBS Outdoor usually spend their time putting up advertising posters in London’s tube and train stations for multinational companies. This week they were putting up strike posters instead.
Around 130 workers in the RMT transport workers union in London began a four day strike today over pay.
The workers, who prepare and put up advertising posters in London tube and train stations, have rejected a “final offer” by management of around 4 percent with strings.
They work for CBS Outdoor – the outdoor advertising division of CBS Corporation. Advertising on public transport used to be run by London Transport Advertising before it was privatised.
Between 15 and 20 workers joined the picket line on Thursday morning. “We are demanding a pay rise in line with inflation and I don’t see why we should accept anything else,” said Peter, one of the workers on strike. “I know the economy is in a bit of trouble but the banks have been announcing massive profits this week.
“People have unanimously rejected the offer because it would mean a pay cut.”
Jenny O’Donnell is the branch secretary for Camden RMT. She told Socialist Worker, “Conditions and pay are very bad for these workers. It’s low paid work – many are on as little as £17,000 a year.
“Since we announced the strikes the membership of the union has increased. On the night shift it has gone up by 30 percent. People want to stand solid together.”
The stark contrast between the pay cuts that workers are expected to swallow and the profits being made at the top was clear to the strikers. Last month CBS Corporation announced a 1 percent increase in its second quarter profits. It earned $408.4 million in the second quarter of 2008.
“CBS are claiming poverty – they say that in a recession advertising is one of the first things to get squeezed,” one worker told Socialist Worker.
“But that’s not our fault. The truth is that CBS is still making millions and the directors’ pay is going up much more than ours. But what value do they add to the company? We do all the work!
“Nobody wants to strike – we can ill afford to. But we have no choice.”
Management had initially offered the workers 2.5 percent. They then offered 3.5 percent after workers rejected the initial offer, and then 3.8 percent but with an hour added on to each shift. Workers are demanding 4.9 percent.
The strikers spoke of how solid the strike was – workers had voted unanimously for the action – and the determination of workers to win a decent pay rise.
Steve Hedley, secretary of London Transport regional council, told Socialist Worker, “The mood is very determined. With prices of things like gas and electricity going up people just can’t accept a pay cut.
“They tell us that advertising is suffering and that’s why we have to tighten our belts. But managers aren’t moving into council houses as far as I can see. The company is making millions.”