By Sam Ord
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2810

Rail strikes have already started—by Churchill cleaners

A striker says, 'It’s great to see all the different nationalities coming together and picketing'
Issue 2810
Churchill rail strike. Around 12 confident-looking cleaners on St Pancras station picket line with placards such as 'Pay justice for cleaners'

Churchill cleaners picketing in Hastings 

Low paid rail cleaners employed by outsourcing company Churchill continue strikes for £15 an hour, sick pay and free travel. Cleaners on GTR, Network Rail, HS1 and South East Trains brought drums, whistles and lots of energy to the picket lines across London and the south east of England during their latest wave of action. 

Sunday was their 13th day of strikes, with this round running from Thursday throughout the weekend to Monday.

Cleaner and RMT rep Bella Fashola from Hastings told Socialist Worker, “People want to drive the strike home. We’ve learnt a lot—I’d never been on a picket line before this—now other workers in the RMT union who are going out on national strike soon are learning from us. It’s great to see all the different nationalities coming together and picketing.”

Bella added that camaraderie and unity has had an effect in the workplace, making everyone happier to work with each other. 

Churchill cleaners are paid just the national minimum wage meaning most workers struggle to get by. The demand for company sick pay is crucial to make sure workers aren’t forced by poverty to go in when they are ill. An RMT survey found 69 percent of Churchill cleaners said that they worked while sick because they couldn’t afford not to.

The workers also claim they are having to do a lot more as staff numbers have declined since the Covid pandemic began in March 2020. This led 61 percent to say that they could not do their job properly.

Bella and her colleagues’ fight is an important one for raising safety conditions among some of the lowest paid staff. Yet Bella said, “The bosses have given nothing to us, they give every excuse under the sun. We met them on Wednesday and they said they reviewed our concerns and couldn’t sustain our contracts with improved sick pay.”

Yet Churchill’s pandemic profits would be enough to give 1,000 cleaners a 50 percent pay rise. The company announced a profit in June 2020 of £11.1 million and paid a dividend of £12 million to its parent company. Churchill directors also gave themselves a £3.8 million dividend.

Bella added, “We have to reballot for strikes soon and I expect we will get a greater yes vote.

“The bosses think they can wait it out for us to lose the ballot—they’re wrong. The plan is a national cleaners’ strike, and we need more picket lines and more demos.”

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