On the Picket Line

UK rail cleaners strike for higher wages, sick pay

By Tony Hunt
and Catharina Tirsén
May 30, 2022

LONDON — “Our living expenses are increasing so we need better pay,” striking train cleaner Rositsa Tomova told the Militant  outside St. Pancras International railway station here April 30. Tomova led other strikers, members of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, chanting the workers’ demands as passengers went by. 

Hundreds of cleaners, working for contractor Churchill on the Govia Thameslink Railways, HS1, Southeastern Railways and Eurostar went on strike April 27, demanding 15 pounds an hour ($18.30) and sick pay.

Rose-Mary Afirim-Anturi has worked as a cleaner on Eurostar for 18 years. “When Churchill took over, they lowered my wages,” she said. “I lost 200 pounds a month.” The fact that Churchill only allows two weeks holiday at a time is also an issue for workers who want to visit their families abroad. 

“There’s not enough staff so they expect us to do more work,” Tomova said, “which makes more money for Churchill.” On May 7 the cleaners went back to work after bosses said they would negotiate.