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Posted on 4 February 2011 at 12:01 GMT

RMT cleaners strike over pay and pensions

Cleaners in the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers' union (RMT) who service First Great Western trains in Cardiff and Swansea are taking 24-hour strike action today (4 February) over a catalogue of failures regarding pay and pension contributions by their employer Mitie.

Alec Thraves from Swansea Socialist Party spoke to Owen Herbert, South & West Wales RMT executive member, on the picket line at Swansea station:

"Since Mitie took over the carriage cleaning contract for First Great Western at Cardiff and Swansea it has failed abysmally to resolve a whole series of issues of pay and pension problems that are causing real hardship for our members.

"Our members, who are already on low pay doing a dirty and hard job have over the past several months been short paid by hundreds of pounds as well as not being paid on time.

"The company has failed to protect members' pensions or to take the necessary steps to set up a section of the railway Pension Scheme. This company is only interested in making as much money as possible.

"They have slashed 20% off the cost of the tender and expect our members to pay the price for this low tender! This is a company that boasts a 1.7 billion turnover and has seen its profits jump by 12% and has increased dividends for 22 years in a row.

"Their measly pay offer is effectively a pay cut and it's of little suprise that with such contempt and arrogance from the company our members returned a 100% yes vote for this industrial action on a 70%-plus turnout.

"Our members will be taking further action in the future if these issues are not immediately resolved".

This one-day strike takes place on the same day as the Wales/England rugby international in Cardiff, a massively busy and arduous day for rail staff, particularly these low paid cleaners.

One rep on the picket line highlighted the gap between his members struggling to survive on poverty wages and the more affluent English rugby supporters travelling to Cardiff from London Paddington.

He told us that on one occasion he cleaned up the first class carriages after they had departed to the match and collected over 300 empty champagne bottles! Wouldn't mind betting there were a few Mitie directors amongst that lot of 'supporters'!

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