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Determined train cleaners walk out for justice

Staff at First Great Western demand end to unfair contracts and pay

Cleaners on rail privateers' cash-cow First Great Western are set to walk out tomorrow in a fight for pay and workplace justice.

More than 130 staff working for contractor Mitie on the line linking London with south-west England and south Wales will stage a 24-hour strike from 6am.

The workers will be buoyed by the stunning victory won by their colleagues on the Tyne and Wear Metro, who after a months-long campaign of protests and strikes won a 20 per cent pay rise and extra holidays this week.

Like their northern co-workers, the Great Western cleaners are pushing for a living wage of £7.45 an hour with the backing of their union, RMT.

They voted "overwhelmingly" for industrial action including strikes in support of their claim.

The cleaners are calling for "a substantial increase in rates of pay and improvements to conditions of service."

Their claim includes increased sick pay to match other staff, shift and weekend rates, overtime and bank holiday pay, travel facilities and an end to super-exploitative zero-hours contracts.

But the union said the company had only offered a "derisory" 2 per cent rise - a real-terms pay cut.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "Mitie RMT members on First Great Western have shown guts and determination throughout this long fight for workplace and pay justice and we expect strong support from across the labour movement as we move into this phase of industrial action.

"This battle is about achieving a living wage and ending the scandal of zero-hours contracts on a rail franchise which is multimillion-pound money-spinner for the private companies bleeding it dry, while those doing the dirty jobs to keep the services clean are treated with pure and utter contempt."

The government extended First Great Western's franchise by two years last week, guaranteeing it and its contractors fat profits at the taxpayers' expense.


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