|Picture by Tony Dowling|
Striking cleaners took their message to the streets of Newcastle this morning. As part of a 48-hour stoppage, which began last night, cleaners on the Tyne and Wear Metro distributed hundreds of leaflets to Metro passengers, explaining why they are striking.A strong gathering of strikers assembled outside Haymarket Metro station at 7.30am. The RMT union’s membership among the cleaning staff has mushroomed recently, as they recognised the need to get organised and take collective action. Cleaners returned a 100% vote for strike action against a real-terms pay cut imposed by Churchill Cleaning Services.
Metro cleaners, paid the minimum wage, are being offered a zero pay rise. There is no sick pay or pension scheme. They don’t even get free travel on the system they keep clean day after day.
One member of staff has been sacked because he raised concerns about short-staffing. The current 48-hour strike is for a living wage, against victimisation, and for decent sick-pay, pension and travel arrangements.
One cleaner told me: “I’m happy with my job. It’s the management I don’t like – giving themselves a pay rise and we get nothing. If you try to talk to a manager about any concerns, they lift their hand up then just walk away.”
Other striking cleaners spoke of their disgust at a pay freeze when company profits increased by a massive 80% last year. One said: “I’ve worked for 40 years, many of them on the Metro. Churchill’s is the worst company I’ve ever known.”
The cleaners are holding a further protest tomorrow (Tuesday), 11am at Haymarket Metro, and welcome any support. They are urging supporters to email Churchill’s top brass in support of the campaign. Email the regional director firstname.lastname@example.org or senior area manager Louisa.Clarke@churchillservices.com or operations manager Mark.Whyte@churchillservices.com
RMT regional organiser Craig Johnston will explain the cleaners’ case in a major public rally – Defend pay, pensions and privatisation – in Newcastle this week. The Coalition of Resistance rally, opposing cuts and privatisation, will also be addressed by PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka and activists from NUT and UCU. It starts at 6.30pm, at Royal Station Hotel, on Thursday 14 June.