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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Low Pay Battles

by New Worker correspondent

RAIL UNION RMT is demanding that Liverpool City Council throw its weight behind the campaign to end to low pay at Merseyrail and bring the contract back in-house.

Merseyrail has contracted out its station cleaning work to the outsourcing company Mitie, who pay their cleaning staff below the Real Living Wage. Liverpool’s Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram already supports the campaign.

Merseyrail, which holds a 25-year concession from Merseytravel, made a profit of £14.3 million last year and has paid out more than £111 million in dividends to Serco and Dutch state railway company Abellio since 2010, a mere fraction of that would take the cleaners out of poverty pay.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “It is more than time to call an end to the disgrace of low pay on our railways. “It’s no wonder that companies who are siphoning off millions from our railways, while paying poverty wages, have run out of public sympathy. Merseyrail and Mitie need to do the right thing and bring an immediate to poverty pay on their watch.”

This has already happened at the University of Greenwich, where many low-paid staff have won the London living wage of £10.75 per hour.

In some cases this is a 23 per cent increase for the cleaners and a 16 per cent increase for cafe workers, and will affect all outsourced workers across three campuses. In addition, contractors will also receive the same sick pay and holiday pay as directly employed university staff. All this will come into effect in May 2020.

This ends a long-running dispute with the University that included a four-day strike in October. The cleaners and security guards were represented by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), a street union which supports the United Voices of Workers (UVW). Academic staff also lent their support.

Elia, the UVW organiser of the strikes, said: “[This] victory was the result of the courageous cafe workers and shows the continued power and importance of strike action and direct action. Now the fight continues to force the university to in-house all employees and end the discriminatory practice of outsourcing once and for all.”

Dr Vera Weghmann, chair of the University of Greenwich branch of the IWGB, added: “This is a victory for the entire University of Greenwich. We said no to poverty wages, we said no to working sick and we said no to inequality between directly employed and outsourced workers. This victory shows we can and will win if we fight together.”

She also welcomed the fact that: “The academic staff stood behind the cafe workers, security guards and cleaners.”

A statement from the University of Greenwich said: “Following the work, which started in March 2019, to procure a new Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) contract, we have reached a key milestone. We have completed the tender process and have identified our preferred supplier, and are currently in the required legal ‘standstill period’ which ends in the middle of January.”