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Posted on 15 November 2011 at 13:14 GMT

Cleaners win 10% pay rise

While the 30th November public-sector strike dominates the news, contract cleaners working on West Coast mainline trains have won a 10% pay rise.

Hugh Caffrey, north-west Socialist Party

Organised in the RMT union, 350 workers took one day of strike action. This seemed to send their employer bananas as "Carlisle Cleaning & Support Services" probably broke the law by using agency staff to do the work of strikes.

Following this action by refusing to empty on-train sewage tanks for two days, and then announcing a further two-day strike, forced Carlisle to concede this substantial pay rise.

Immediately, workers get a 5% increase. The rest will be phased in over the next 10 months, and also include further improvements in benefits, allowances and working conditions.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow hailed this "fantastic achievement" won through "the strength, solidarity and sheer courage of the Virgin West Coast Cleaners," who were paid barely above the minimum wage in "sweatshop" conditions.

These workers have dealt a body blow to low pay by a viciously anti-union employer. This is because they stood firm, organised solid industrial action, and were prepared to seriously escalate the strikes if necessary.

For public sector workers defending their pensions, for construction electricians fighting against a 35% pay cut, for numerous local disputes, and for working people generally, the clear lesson is as Bob Crow says, "If you organise in a trade union, and are prepared to put up a fight, you can win."

Alex Gordon, RMT President, said:

"The 23% pay increase since 2010 by RMT members employed by Tory paymaster, Lord Ashcroft's, Carlisle Cleaning Group on Virgin West Coast train cleaning follows our recognition triumph at Churchill's Cleaning on Tyne & Wear Metro and is a victory for the lowest paid railworkers.

"It shows industrially-organised, militant trade unions can win at a time of austerity. ConDem policies are outsourcing more and more workers to privatised 'utility management'.

"These super-profitable contracts are based on a national minimum wage (NMW) business model, super-exploitation and corruption.

"The lesson for NSSN is that the fight for public sector pensions on 30 November must extend to decent pay and pensions for all.

"Cleaning, Catering and Security contractors in the transport industry watch out. RMT has you in our sights."

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