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Posted on 8 August 2012 at 14:14 GMT

Newcastle's loudest protest! - Supporting Churchill cleaners

Elaine Brunskill

"Who are we - RMT" and "Low Pay - No Way", were amongst the deafening chants at a protest outside the front door of Nexus, the regional transport authority. Vuvuzalas added to the cacophony.

Alongside a fantastic turnout from the striking Metro cleaners, many others joined in with their union banners, megaphones, etc.

These protesters were responding to a call put out by the RMT trade union for supporters to join with: "Flags, banners, horns, drums. Plenty of colour and noise to get our message across."

Churchill cleaners working on Tyne & Wear Metro have taken this further strike action against their stingy bosses who had the temerity to describe a zero per cent pay offer as generous!

Yet the RMT points out that this is a company that has doubled its profits in the past five years and has extracted nearly 7 million from the exploitation of essential cleaning staff who are on the most basic pay and conditions including no sick pay, no pensions and none of the travel concession rights enjoyed by other Nexus workers.

Speaking to the striking cleaners it is clear that they are absolutely determined to battle for improved terms and conditions, and continue the struggle for the reinstatement of sacked RMT member William Etchells.

Craig Johnston, RMT organiser, told the Socialist:

The cleaners' determination is phenomenal. They've been out now, over a period of time, for five days.

We're in a war of attrition here, but there's no sign of the cleaners' resolve waning in any way.

And when you consider the sort of salaries Nexus bosses such as Bernard Gardner are on, they could give every one of the cleaners 1,000 out of their own pockets and still take home a healthy wedge.

This dispute is a microcosm of what is happening in Britain today. Nexus bosses [transport authority], DB Regio bosses [main contractors] are making mega bucks, while those at the sharp end and on the front-line are on poverty wages. The RMT is not prepared to accept that scenario.

This dispute will go on as long as it takes. Until we get pay justice and a fair settlement.

I want to thank the Socialist Party for all the support they have given us on the Metro - it has been unstinting.

But I have an important message for Labour members of the Tyne & Wear Integrated Transport Authority that runs Nexus and the Metro.

You cannot wash your hands of responsibility from poverty wages and piss-poor conditions on the Metro system when you are responsible for contracting out cleaning services to a bunch of privateer sharks who make substantial profits. Allowing the directors mega pay rises, while their workers are on miserly wages.

We are not going away. Watch here for the next episode.


News added on 13th August:

RMT member William Etchells, who was sacked by Churchill cleaners on Tyne and Wear Metro because of honest criticisms he had written in a comments box on his time sheet, has won his tribunal. The court ruled he was unfairly dismissed by Churchill.

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