Last week, I went to the Hastings Demands Better TUC meeting, and learned a lot about what various local community groups and industrial unions were doing about the cost-of-living crisis.
One of the speakers, Bella Fashola, told us about the Churchill train cleaners’ dispute. The overarching issue is clear: how are people who clean trains, but don’t work for a railway company, supposed to live on £9.50 an hour? Not being direct railway employees, they don’t even get travel concessions, so can be in a position where finding the money to pay fares and get to work is a major problem, let alone paying rent and feeding a family.
There are underlying, long-term problems as well though, which apply to many, many workers in this time of austerity and struggle. I spoke to some of the cleaners at Hastings station today, and at one point, we were trying to remember when the railway companies stopped employing ancillary staff directly. Was it back in the British Rail days? Or in the Connex era? You can see the messy end of Connex’s time here…
See what a battle that was? And inside the mess that is private companies battling over contracts to run railway companies, there is another set of battles between ancillary contractors such as Churchill. When the time comes for those contracts to be renewed, the companies are shaving shaved shavings, trying to get into a position to undermine their rivals and win the contracts. They call it ‘productivity’ or ‘efficiency’, but what it translates as is starvation wages, and employees who can barely afford to get to work, let alone cope with a cost of living crisis. Privatisation may help rich people get richer but for the rest of us, it is a disaster.
Here’s how you can help the Churchill cleaners fight their way to a living wage…
Now, I’m off to talk to some more RMT people, and find out more about what needs doing to make working, or even traveling, on the railways s viable and affordable thing to do, and how to put an end to the cost-of-living crisis.
Please don’t forget to support the cleaners by sending in and/or tweeting your views (details above), if you’re in Hastings, the cleaners are outside the station from 10am until the 6th June – please go and talk to them about demanding better, and please prepare to come to London if you possibly can on the 18th June, to help us all Demand Better.
Times are hard (there’s a cost of living crisis going on!) and so the articles on this site are freely available but if you are able to support my work by making a donation, I am very grateful.