Rail Cleaners Launch 48-Hour Strike

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RMT cleaners fighting for £15 an hour pay were joined by MPs outside Parliament last month – they will strike for 48 hours next week

HUNDREDS of rail cleaners will launch a 48-hour strike action next week in fight for pay justice.

Transport union RMT members who keep trains and stations clean across London and the Southeast are campaigning for £15 an hour and to be made direct employees of the railways.
This will be the second bout of strike action starting Friday 11 March, affecting Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern, Southeastern, Eurostar and HS1 services.
Cleaners in London currently earn the London Living Wage and this action follows the biggest strike by cleaners in the history of the railways.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Churchill’s treatment of cleaning staff who have risked their health and safety to work throughout the pandemic is a disgrace.
‘Workers on low pay are much worse off now than 12 months ago and multi-million pound contractor Churchill has failed to recognise that.
‘We will not stop campaigning or taking strike action until there is a just settlement and these outsourced workers are bought on to the railways as direct employees of the train operating companies.’
Meanwhile, another transport union the TSSA has voted by more than 8 to 1 in favour of merging with the US-based union, the Boilermakers, in a ballot which smashed recent merger votes. This would be the first time that a British trade union has merged with a north American union.
The ballot of TSSA members closed on Tuesday 1 March and saw a turnout of 32% with more than 5,000 individual members voting in the online-only ballot. Of those who voted, 85% said yes to the merger, with just 15% voting no.
TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said he was ‘delighted’ with both the turnout and the result and vowed that the TSSA leadership ‘will now put our collective shoulders to the wheel to act on the wishes of our members by making the proposed merger a reality.’
The ballot results in full: Ballots issued: 15,802. Yes: 4,322 (85%), No: 767 (15%). Turnout: 5,089 (32%).
This is one of the biggest turnouts for a merger ballot among trade unions. For comparison, in 2016 broadcasting union Bectu merged with Prospect after an 18% turnout in their ballot returned an 83% yes vote.
TSSA’s ballot of members was run by election services experts Civica.
Ballots were issued by email with unique voting IDs for the online-only ballot. The ballot was open for three weeks. It followed an online indicative ballot of TSSA workplace reps held in January 2022, in which reps voted 9-1 in favour of merging with the Boilermakers.
‘I’m delighted that so many of our members took part in this important ballot on our union’s future,’ said Manuel Cortes.
‘Our members and activists have spoken loud and clear that they back the proposed merger with the Boilermakers. The merger will bring strength and security to our TSSA union at a time when our members need support.’
In terms of the next steps, Cortes explained: ‘Our union’s leadership will now be putting our collective shoulders to the wheel to act on the wishes of our members by making the proposed merger a reality.’
The TSSA is holding a Special Delegate Conference on Saturday 19 March to consider the merger proposals further.
Both unions are working towards delivering the merger by the summer 2022.

  • The TSSA General Secretary has slammed the government over a ‘staggeringly stupid’ decision to raise rail fares. The fare increases came into effect on Tuesday 1st March.

The eye-watering 3.8 per cent hike, the biggest in almost a decade, was announced in December last year. It comes amid an escalating cost of living crisis which has seen food and energy prices continue to soar.
Cortes believes the move is counterproductive, doing little to encourage commuters away from car use after two years of the Covid pandemic. He said: ‘Jacking up rail fares as we begin the journey out of a pandemic is a staggeringly stupid move by this Tory government.
‘It’s almost as though ministers want to force people off our railways and into cars in an effort to speed up our climate crisis.
‘Rail could and should be central to our economic recovery from Covid but instead pushing up fares will price many people off the network, with domestic budgets stretched in this ongoing cost of living crisis.
‘For years we saw commuters clobbered by above inflation fares while the shareholders of private rail companies laughed all the way to the bank. We need our railways to be in public hands and working for all of us.
‘Boris Johnson and co can wax lyrical about levelling up all they want. Their actions show they don’t have a clue about the needs of millions of people who want to use our railways in the years ahead.’

  • Traindrivers’ union ASLEF is joining protests on the UN anti-racism day on March 19th.

ASLEF said in a statement: ‘Join ASLEF’s BAME Representative Committee and members from across the country at a demonstration to stand against racism on UN anti-racism day.
‘ASLEF will be marching in London but branches and banners are also encouraged to join the marches in Glasgow and Cardiff.
‘At a time when governments are intensifying hostile environments for refugees and migrants, when the #BlackLivesMatter movement is exposing the depths of institutional racism, and when the far right and fascist forces continue to pose a threat, the day of international demonstrations is extremely important.
‘Here in Britain we have a cabinet, led by Johnson and Patel, launching a racist offensive, with their Nationality and Borders Bill, Policing Bill, and Higher Education Bill representing a raft of intensified racist policy attacking refugees and migrants, Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities, and the #BlackLivesMatter and the wider anti-racist movement.
‘They denied institutional racism in their CRED report, and attacked footballers who did #TakeTheKnee actions against racism.
The demonstrations taking place are:
‘London: BBC Portland Place, 12 noon on Saturday 19th March.
‘Glasgow: Kelvingrove Park, 11am on Saturday 19th March.
‘Cardiff: City Hall, 12 noon, Sunday 20th March.’

  • A train driver was struck and killed by a passing train after he left his cab last month. The man, who has not been named, died on 1st February while his Southern train was stationary at a siding near West Worthing station, West Sussex.

The driver was due to wait at the siding ‘for a short time’ before entering the station.
Investigators said: ‘Train drivers should not normally need to leave their trains as part of their duties while waiting in this siding.’
In a statement, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) added he was hit by a passing train at around 33mph.
A full investigation into his death has been launched, the RAIB said.
The RAIB said: ‘At around 20:33hrs on 1st February 2022, a train travelling at approximately 33mph (53km/h) passed a stationary train that was waiting in a siding, around 300 metres to the west of West Worthing station.
‘As it did so, it struck and fatally injured the driver of the stationary train, who had previously exited the train’s cab and descended to track level.
‘The train driver who was struck had earlier driven his train from Brighton to West Worthing and had then driven it into the siding where the accident occurred.
‘The train was timetabled to wait here for a short time before returning to West Worthing station and forming the next passenger service to Brighton. Train drivers should not normally need to leave their trains as part of their duties while waiting in this siding.
‘Our investigation will seek to identify the sequence of events which led to the accident. It will also consider:

  • The actions of those involved, including how the train driver involved came to be in a position where he could be struck by the passing train.

 

  • The methods of working used by staff working on and around the siding.

 

  • The layout and condition of the siding involved.

 

  • Any underlying factors.

‘Our investigation is independent of any investigation by the railway industry or by the industry’s regulator, the Office of Rail and Road.
‘We will publish our findings, including any recommendations to improve safety, at the conclusion of our investigation. This report will be available on our website.’