13 January 2022
RMT Press Office:
Historic four-contract dispute with Churchill
RAIL UNION RMT has served notice to an outsourcing company that on the 18th January it will be balloting cleaners on four of its contracts in the South-East for industrial action as part of a dispute over pay and justice for essential workers.
The historic strike ballot is the latest phase of a long-running campaign for pay justice by cleaners who have worked throughout the pandemic to ensure that trains running on Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern, Southeastern, High Speed 1 and Eurostar trains are safe for the public to use.
Churchill, the outsourcing company that employs these cleaners has refused to table an acceptable offer in response to the cleaners’ claims for a pay rise, occupational sick pay and the same travel facilities given to other rail workers, despite the fact that the company paid its two directors a £3.8 million dividend last year at the height of the pandemic.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said:
“For decades cleaners have been treated like dirt by the rail industry but RMT is sending a clear message right across the industry that those days are over.
“This pandemic has blown apart the argument that their work is ‘non-core’ and it’s time the industry started to treat them like the essential workers they are.
“RMT has served notice on Churchill of our intention to ballot our members on four of their contracts, covering train services all across the South-East and I’m serving notice on the wider industry that it needs to clean up its own act.
“Cleaners want a better deal and we’re not going to stop until they get it.”
Notes for Editors
The ballot opens on 18 January and will close on 1st February and covers cleaners awarded by Govia Thameslink Railways, Southeastern railways, HS1 and Eurostar.
As the RMT has revealed in a recent report, outsourcing companies get their profits from cutting cleaning costs to the bone, holding down pay and working conditions and cutting staffing numbers, which leads to exploitation of cleaning staff impacts on the quality of the service they can provide. In a recent survey of Churchill cleaners on these contracts
61% reported that they sometimes or regularly struggle to get by
69% reported that they have gone into work while sick because they couldn’t afford not to work
35% reported that they weren’t confident they have the right equipment to do the job properly,
42% reported that the number of cleaners employed had fallen in the last three years and 61% said they were not confident the company had enough people to do their job properly.
Read RMT’s report on cleaning in full here: https://www.rmt.org.uk/news/cleaning-up-the-railways/