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Posted on 30 December 2012 at 12:38 GMT

Tyne and Wear Metro strikers tell bosses to end poverty pay

Tyne and Wear Metro strikers tell bosses to end poverty pay, photo by E Brunskill

Tyne and Wear Metro strikers tell bosses to end poverty pay, photo by E Brunskill   (Click to enlarge)

Churchill cleaners working on Tyne and Wear Metro have taken a further 72 hours of strike action over the Christmas holiday.

As Craig Johnston, RMT Relief Regional Organiser, pointed out: "If you are going to have industrial action you have it when it is most convenient for workers and most inconvenient for bosses".

Craig went on to say: "Churchill have recently offered some of the workers a derisory 70. Not per month, but as a one-off payment!" Churchill then challenged the RMT union to put this derisory offer to its members - which it did.

The cleaners voted one in favour and 48 against accepting the offer. Needless to say the company had nothing to say about that.

In order to highlight the issue of their Scrooge employer Churchill strikers set up a soup kitchen outside the Nexus head office (the public body which oversees the maintenance and operations on the metro).

Churchill cleaners working on Tyne and Wear Metro have taken a further 72 hours of strike action over the Christmas holiday, photo by E Brunskill

Churchill cleaners working on Tyne and Wear Metro have taken a further 72 hours of strike action over the Christmas holiday, photo by E Brunskill   (Click to enlarge)

The RMT has also sent all councillors who are on the ITA (Integrated Transport Authority) a "Christmas hamper".

All the hampers contained was a letter urging the ITA members to make a New Year resolution to end poverty wages for Churchill cleaners on the Tyne and Wear Metro.

The ITA is overwhelmingly Labour controlled, and it was them who privatised the metro system and handed the operation over to DB Regio (German state railway), who in turn subcontracted the cleaning to "privateer rubbish company Churchill's".

Craig told us: "The German and Dutch railway have big stakes these days in the UK. They make so much money out of this that one official was overheard as describing Britain as Treasure Island.

"Meanwhile those at the sharp end, delivering frontline services are on miserable wages and piss-poor conditions.

"Labour politicians talk about the introduction of a living wage, but here we have a maze of privateers and contractors that deliver poverty wages to our members.

"It's all well and good David Miliband (South Shields MP) writing articles for national newspapers on the living wage - he should get down to South Shields metro station in his constituency and meet Churchill cleaners subcontracted by a Labour transport authority on miserable wages. My message to the Labour Party is that your actions speak louder than your words".

Strikers on the picket line made it clear that they are determined to fight Churchill bosses.

Elaine Brunskill

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 30 December 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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