Striking rail cleaners at a rally in central London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Low-paid and outsourced cleaners on Network Rail and the GTR, HS1 and Southeastern train companies returned to picket lines for three days of strikes last Thursday. 

It was the latest round of action in the RMT union members’ long-running fight to win £15 an hour, sick pay and free travel. Churchill hasn’t made any offers on pay—but it has plenty of money. 

The company made a £10 million profit last year and paid a £12 million dividend in 2020. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said, “Churchill could easily afford to give them £15 an hour. 

“But instead, they’re fixed on shovelling money toward their private equity shareholders. They think they can turn the clock back to before the pandemic and carry on squeezing money out of their workers.

“This campaign is only going to grow and we will not stop until we’ve won justice for our cleaners.”

Ferry workers defy threats from Tory MP in pay strike  

Red Funnel ferry workers on the south coast of England are preparing to begin a programme of strikes next Wednesday. 

The Unite union members, who operate the Southampton to Isle of Wight ferry route, have come under attack from their local Tory MP, Bob Seeley. He has called for the upcoming Transport Bill to include anti‑democratic restrictions on ferry strikes. 

Unite said, “Mr Seeley has no interest in the difficulties of these workers.”

It added that Seeley’s “comments will be music to the ears of maritime employers, such as Red Funnel and P&O”. They “can afford to give workers a decent wage but instead drive down pay and conditions”.

The workers will walk out for 24 hours on Wednesday of next week and on 1, 3, 5, 9, 11, 15, 17, 19, 23, 26 and 29 August.

The majority of the workers are paid minimum wage. Red Funnel is owned by the £11.5 billion West Midlands Pension Fund and the £3.5 billion Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario, Canada. 

Sick of low pay and high costs, workers voted 88 percent for strikes on a 84.2 percent turnout. It came after they rejected a pay offer of between 4.5 to 6.5 percent—a real terms pay cut.

Unite said workers are turning to food banks and are making the most of food allowances at work to keep bills down.

Bus strikes suspended in Merseyside and West Yorkshire

The Unite union suspended a planned bus strike at Stagecoach Merseyside last week after bosses made a new offer. The workers initially walked out on 4 July. 

They were set to strike again on Friday of last week and Monday. And they planned to start an all-out strike on Wednesday. 

Unite regional officer Dave Roberts said, “Following a significantly improved offer from Stagecoach, Unite has suspended the two forthcoming one day strikes to ballot members on the new offer.”

If workers reject the deal, then the all-out continuous strike due to begin will go ahead. The pay dispute involves workers at the Gillmoss depot and would disrupt services across Merseyside. 

The drivers are paid just £12.69 an hour and are demanding an above-inflation pay rise.

Meanwhile, around 650 bus workers on Arriva services in west Yorkshire have suspended an all-out strike over pay after bosses made a new offer. 

The workers walked out on 6 June after rejecting a 4 percent pay offer. Strikes were then suspended on 1 July for members to vote on an improved pay deal. 

They rejected the offer by 54 percent and returned to the picket line on Wednesday of last week.

Unite has now received assurances bosses could make a “substantial offer”. Unite regional officer Phil Bown said the suspension will “give sufficient space and time for a new offer to be negotiated”.

But the suspension risks breaking momentum. At the beginning of the dispute, bus depots saw large numbers on picket lines, much larger than union reps anticipated. If the offer is below the RPI rate of inflation, workers should reject it and strike on. 

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