6 April 2022
RMT Press Office:
Bosses on Southeastern Trains exposed as getting free travel while denying it to cleaners.
RAIL UNION RMT today accused bosses at the publicly owned Southeastern Trains of ‘rank hypocrisy’ after it was revealed that they get free rail travel while denying it to the cleaning staff who work to ensure that Southeastern trains are safe and hygienic to use.
The admission was made by Rail Minister Wendy Morton in response to questions from Labour MP Bell Ribeiro Addy who has campaigned in support of the Southeastern Trains cleaners, currently outsourced to Churchill and engaged in a prolonged dispute on services across London and the South East.
In her answer, Ms Morton admits that in addition to the Board getting free travel during working hours, the Managing Director of South Eastern trains Ltd, Steve White is also entitled to ‘free rail travel and rail staff facilities at all times’.
In a separate development a group of MPs from affected constituencies in London and the Southeast has written to the directors of all the companies involved in what is believed to the largest dispute ever involving rail cleaners. In a letter sent to the bosses of Churchill, Go-Ahead Group, Soho Square Capital, HS1, Eurostar and Southeastern Trains Ltd, the MPs urge the directors to make a fair pay offer to meet the cost of living crisis and end the scandal of not paying sick pay to rail cleaners.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said:
“Our members have been driven to strike action in pursuit for a fair pay rise to meet the cost -of-living crisis and free travel has been a key demand for these heroic, low paid cleaners who have risked their lives during the pandemic.
“Now we learn that their bosses at publicly-owned Southeastern have been travelling free on trains cleaned by people who have to pay. This is rank hypocrisy and they need to put an end to it by granting free travel to their low-paid cleaning staff.
“It’s time the bosses of all these companies listened to the growing number of voices calling on them to come back to the table with properly funded offers to end the scandal of low pay and exploitation of cleaning staff”.
Notes for editors:
Question: Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Labour, Streatham Common) – “To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether all members of the Board of Southeastern Trains Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of OLR DfT Holdings Ltd, are entitled to (a) free rail travel or (b) rail staff travel facilities.”
Answer: Wendy Morton (Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills Commons) Answered on 9 March 2022 - This answer is a correction from the original answer: “SE Trains Ltd board members are entitled to free rail travel on the SE Trains Ltd network during working hours. The Managing Director of SE Trains Ltd, who is also a board member, is also entitled to free rail travel and rail staff travel facilities at all times. One SE Trains Ltd board member is also entitled to free rail travel and rail staff travel facilities on other services, as a result of employment benefits obtained before assuming their role at SE Trains Ltd.”
https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2022-03-04/134387 - Original answer: Members of the South East Train’s Board are not entitled to either free rail travel, or rail staff facilities.
25 MPs have signed a Parliamentary Motion calling for fair pay for Churchill cleaners employed on south east rail services:
The letter from London and Southeastern MPs is below:
Joel Briggs, Managing Director, Churchill Group
Walid Fakry, Co-managing Partner, Soho Square Capital LLP
Christian Schreyer, CEO, Go-Ahead Group (Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern)
Robin Gisby, Chair, Southeastern Trains Ltd
Jacques Damas, Chief Executive, Eurostar
Dyan Crowther, Chief Executive, HS1
To the above,
Fair pay for Churchill rail cleaners
We are writing to you to urge you to agree on funding a fair pay offer to cleaners working to keep our trains and stations safe and hygienic in the South of England and London
We believe that cleaners are essential workers and we agree with the Prime Minister when he said that they do an ‘extraordinary job’.
We are deeply concerned at the impact of rising inflation on pay rates as low as £8.91 and £9.50 per hour and we are disturbed to learn that these people, who have put their lives on the line during the pandemic, are not given occupational sick pay or travel facilities. It is not right that people who have worked so hard to keep our essential services running should be struggling to make ends meet and living month to month.
We urge you to agree on funds that can support decent pay offers that resolve the disputes on our region’s railways and we would be grateful for a meeting to discuss this further.
Rt Hon. Diane Abbott MP
Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP
Apsana Begum, MP
Jeremy Corbyn, MP
Caroline Lucas MP
John McDonnell, MP
Lloyd Russell Moyle, MP
Marsh De Cordova MP
Ian Mearns MP (Group Chair)