Hundreds of rail cleaners across London and the south east have begun a fresh wave of strikes in their fight for higher pay and conditions.
The RMT union members began 11 days of strikes on Wednesday to demand Churchill pays up. The outsourcer—which made a £39 million profit last year—runs cleaning services on the GTR, Eurostar, SE trains and HS1 train operating companies.
Bella, a cleaner and RMT rep in Hastings, told Socialist Worker, “We are fighting for £15 an hour, company sick pay and travel facility among other demands. Currently we are receiving minimum wage and we don’t get any sick pay, hence why we come to work when sick. Cleaners inside of London and other areas are paying anywhere up to £240 a month to get to their place of work.”
The workers, who are from 40 different nationalities, have already walked out twice before. Bella said, “Churchill are absolutely unscrupulous, they exploit all their workers on the rail contracts and others by attacking our terms and conditions.
“I believe the whole railway should be publicly owned. It should never have been privatised because the health and safety risks and attacks on workers can’t go on.”
The strikers have received huge amounts of support and have built lively picket lines. Some 400 people heard from the strikers and their supporters at an online rally, organised by Tribune magazine.
Striker Kevin said, “We are going to fight this all the way. Some of the directors are on £200,000 a year—that’s £16,250 a month, a cleaner’s yearly wage. We will fight for £15 an hour, we will fight for sick pay and we will fight for travel. These are three things that can be given to us tomorrow.”
Other speakers included Zarah Sultana MP, CWU union general secretary Dave Ward and Angelika Maldonado, chair of the US Amazon Labour Union.
🎥Solidarity with striking RMT union members on the railways. Churchill cleaners Bella and Kevin in Hastings are fighting for £15 an hour, sick pay and other demands. They say the “strike is very solid with plenty of support”. @RMTunion #solidarity pic.twitter.com/r84rcrF3uz
— Socialist Worker (@socialistworker) April 27, 2022
Many workers said their wage was “unliveable” before the cost of living crisis really hit—and now inflation is soaring. They want their jobs to be brought in house on proper pay and terms and conditions.
Churchill bosses have so far refused to offer anything meaningful to the workers. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said, “With the profits Churchill makes, they could easily pay a fair wage, pay company sick pay and allow free travel across the network.”
Churchill cleaners have shown that workers in precarious conditions can fight back. They also have shown how struggle can unite workers from different backgrounds against the common enemy, the bosses.
Every socialist, trade unionist and campaigner should raise money for the Churchill cleaners strike fund in their workplace and union branch.
A round-up of workplace struggles
A round-up of transport workers’ struggles