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Tyne and Wear
23 August 2011
Tyne and Wear: Churchill Metro workers begin fightback
Churchill Contract Services are contracted by DB Regio Tyne and Wear to clean Metro trains and stations. Elaine Brunskill spoke to a cleaning operative from Churchill over an attack on the workers' terms and conditions.
From the onset Churchill has reneged on the TUPE transfer agreement, which should have guaranteed working conditions. With only three days' notice, shift patterns were changed, low paid workers have been forced to move to monthly pay, and the attacks are continuing.
The worker explained that five months down the line Churchill is saying they need more 'cost efficiencies'. The bosses are threatening to cut paid lunch breaks.
Furthermore: "They've made a smokescreen of the threat of redundancies - the threat being that if cuts in wages are not made there will be redundancies.
"Churchill wants to frighten us about losing our jobs - this is the type of company DB Regio are using as contractors!" Workers have also been sacked on trumped-up charges, which has led to everyone being fearful of losing their jobs.
Not prepared to sit back and do nothing
However, workers are not prepared to sit back and do nothing. The person we spoke to said:
Myself and others have joined the transport union RMT. We've put up posters in the station about joining the union. The bosses take the posters down, then we put them back up.
There's a battle of the posters going on. We're very close to having 50% of the workers in the union.
If Churchill workers don't join the union - they'll walk all over us. Churchill have sent a letter out advising workers not to join the union as it will cost £50 a year.
What they didn't say is that they are wanting to push wages back by more than £70 a month by cutting paid breaks. Up until now the company are refusing to meet with the RMT.
They've said they will only do so when they are forced to by the trade union recognition laws (50% of the workforce being unionised). That won't be too long.
The RMT has released figures showing that Churchill had an 81% surge in pre-tax profits between 2009/10 when the average pay for cleaning staff on the Metro is just £5.93 an hour.
RMT relief regional organiser Craig Johnston said: "This is the sharp end of privatisation. Bosses attacking people on the minimum wage, attempting to get every last drop of blood."
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 23 August 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
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