Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/13063

Posted on 28 October 2011 at 12:25 GMT

'Virgin' on the outrageous

Cleaners working on trains on the Virgin West Coast Mainline struck for 24 hours from this morning (28 October) in a row over poverty pay and union rights between the 'Carlisle Cleaning and Support Services' contractor, and the RMT union.

Carlisle's owner, Impellam Group, part of the business empire of top Tory Lord Ashcroft, has increased its profits by almost 30% to 16.2 million in the past year off the backs of its low paid workforce.

Yet it is telling cleaners they need to take a real-terms pay cut for it to keep the contract with Virgin.

The entire rail industry should be renationalised and employ all workers directly, putting an end to this maze of contractors and sub-contractors grubbing their profits at the expense of workers and the travelling public.

Pickets at the rail depot in east Manchester told me about "sweatshop" conditions for cleaners paid a flat rate of 6.54 an hour, even when on permanent night shifts, even when working in sub-zero winter temperatures.

RMT official Andy Warnock-Smith said:

"These cleaners are on appalling wages and conditions, and they're being treated with absolute contempt by the company.

"Something else about this dispute is how Virgin Trains are just sitting back. Branson has this image as a 'great entrepreneur', but what's he doing to resolve this?"

Carlisle had offered a miserable 1% pay 'rise' this year, 'worth' 6p an hour. As one picket pointed out, that's 2.40 a week: a pint of milk and a loaf of bread! Carlisle also offered 1% next year, 'worth' 7p.

When inflation is officially around 5% and in reality far higher for workers, this is a big pay cut.

Under pressure, Carlisle made a new offer, described by pickets as so "miniscule" that the union rejected it out of hand. RMT general secretary Bob Crow said:

"Carlisle should understand that our members are not prepared to tolerate low pay and poor conditions any longer from a company that makes millions on the backs of their work.

"Virgin should also recognise that it has a moral obligation not to allow poverty wages to be paid to people who play a key role in providing services to its 20 million passengers.

"Instead of planning to derecognise the union and threatening our members, Carlisle should get around the table and negotiate a sensible, fair deal that reflects the true worth of the hard work that creates Carlisle's profits."

RMT membership at Carlisle has doubled to represent the overwhelming majority of the workers, 94% of whom voted to take strike action.

RMT members on the contract will also refuse to empty train effluent tanks or refill fresh water tanks for 24 hours from 6pm on Friday 4th November.

Longsight pickets told me that Carlisle threatened to bus in agency workers to do the work of strikers.

This is probably illegal. All supporters of this strike should show their support this evening, from 8.30pm at the Longsight depot just off Kirkmanshulme Lane in Longsight.

Hugh Caffrey

Additional report:

Reports during the day confirmed an overwhelmingly solid strike. In Crewe the great majority of workers went on strike, and in Stoke 100%.

Meanwhile, if Carlisle's boasts are to be believed then they shipped the small handful of their employees not on strike from one end of the country to the other!

Reports suggested the illegal use of scab agency labour to do the work of strikers. The RMT will be investigating the legal facts of the matter.

Strikers said that agency workers were being paid 12 an hour, almost double the rate Carlisle normally pays its own workforce! The cleaners are determined to win a fair settlement, taking further strike action if necessary.

The union will now discuss this on the basis of this solid strike which has hammered home to Carlisle that these workers will not be bullied and the company has a real fight on its hands.


Liverpool

Around 25 Carlisle Contact Cleaners and support staff were on strike on 27 October at the Liverpool Edgehill depot.

These cleaners work on the West Coast main line, mostly on permanent nights cleaning Virgin Trains.

They have been offered a paltry 1% pay increase for this year and the Carlisle group are attempting to derecognise the RMT union. The action was supported by Liverpool trades council and Liverpool Against the Cuts.

John Marston

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 28 October 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

Facebook   Twitter






Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Related links:

RMT:

triangleLink the strikes - come to the NSSN conference

triangleNo to the bosses' EU, yes to international solidarity

triangleTUSC announces '20-city tour': the socialist case against the EU

triangleWelsh Assembly elections: A working class voice to say 'save our steel!'

triangleAn anti-austerity alternative on the ballot paper

Virgin:

triangleBosses back EU to boost NHS sell-offs

triangleHealth service: condition critical

triangleGovernment reneges on rail modernisation pledge

Carlisle:

triangleSupport for junior doctors at campaign stalls

triangleBig boosts at Northern Socialist Party conference

triangleCumbria cuts - the grim reaper

Pay:

triangleUniversity lecturers strike for fair pay

triangleWe won't move! Mass resistance can defeat the Tories' housing act

Cleaners:

triangleWorkplace news in brief

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

27/5/16

Sheffield

BIS office closure: Anger and determination to fight on

27/5/16

EU

June meetings on the EU Referendum

27/5/16

Kazakhstan

Solidarity with protesters in Kazakhstan

25/5/16

UCU

University lecturers strike for fair pay

25/5/16

Wales TUC

Motion passed for no-cuts council budgets

25/5/16

NSSN

Link the strikes - come to the NSSN conference

25/5/16

BMA

Tories forced back in junior doctors' dispute

25/5/16

Union

Workplace news in brief

25/5/16

Conductors

Train conductors strike to keep their role

25/5/16

Them & Us

Them & us

25/5/16

Lancashire

Chorley A&E battle

25/5/16

Coventry

Coventry sees off EDL

25/5/16

Environment

Boris hid killer air report

25/5/16

Socialist Party

Fight to win: join the Socialists!

25/5/16

Waltham Forest

Campaigning for a people's plan for Waltham Forest

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

triangle27 May BIS office closure: Anger and determination to fight on

triangle25 May Austria - Hofer defeated, but far-right threat remains

triangle25 May EU referendum can bring the Tories down

triangle25 May University lecturers strike for fair pay

triangle25 May Motion passed for no-cuts council budgets

triangle25 May Link the strikes - come to the NSSN conference

triangle25 May Tories forced back in junior doctors' dispute

More ...

triangle31 May Bristol TUSC: The socialist case against the EU

triangle31 May Liverpool Socialist Party: The 1916 Easter Rising

triangle31 May Chesterfield Socialist Party: Hillsborough & Orgreave

triangle1 Jun Salford Socialist Party: Leveson, Murdochgate and the press

More ...

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Find us on Facebook

Archive

Categories

1-9 

1-9 


Archives:

May 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

January 2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice