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Posted on 8 November 2011 at 12:09 GMT

Virgin boss Branson not stopping low pay of train cleaners

Hundreds of cleaners working on Virgin west coast mainline trains will strike for 48 hours from 1am on Friday 11 November 2011 to 23:59 on Saturday 12 November 2011, as their employer continues to offer insultingly low pay 'rises'.

350 workers struck on 28 October, when their employer Carlisle Cleaning and Support Services apparently broke the law by using agency-supplied workers to do the work of strikers.

Last weekend, cleaners took action 'short of strike' by refusing to empty train effluent tanks or refill fresh water tanks.

The cleaners are paid barely over minimum wage. For five years, their pay only increased when the minimum wage was raised by law.

In the ballot organised by their union, the RMT, 94% voted to strike. Now, as a result, the company is offering a few pence more an hour. This is not good enough, as RMT general secretary Bob Crow said:

"Our members on Carlisle's Virgin west coast contract have made it crystal clear with a massive mandate for action that they will not accept a real-terms cut in their already low pay and are demanding a living wage".

The cleaners have been offered a real-terms pay cut as inflation is rising much faster than their wages, even after Carlisle's offer is included.

Carlisle is owned by the Impellam Group, in turn part of the business empire of top Tory Lord Ashcroft. Impellam increased its profits by almost 30% to £16.2 million in the past year!

The RMT is demanding a meeting with Virgin's boss Richard Branson, who so far has refused to intervene.

Bob Crow says: "We are calling on Sir Richard Branson to recognise the outrageous behaviour of his contractors and to meet the cleaning staff face to face.

"He should demand an end to this exploitation of low paid workers on one of Britain's most prestigious rail lines".

Branson's £millions are made from workers like those at Carlisle being paid peanuts. The entire rail service is run so train operators like Virgin and contractors like Carlisle can rip off taxpayers through subsidies, the travelling public through extortionate ticket prices, and workers in the industry through low pay.

This disgraceful shambles should be renationalised from top to bottom and run under democratic control by representatives of rail workers and the travelling public, as well as the government.

All trade unionists and socialists should support this strike. Contact your local RMT branch to find out when and where the picket lines will be on Thursday and Friday.

Hugh Caffrey, North West Socialist Party

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