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Merseyrail accused of ‘pandemic profiteering’

£3m dividend ‘could fund pay rise four times over’

THE PRIVATEER operators of Merseyrail are guilty of “pandemic profiteering” while leaving key workers without support, the RMT union said today.

Franchisees Serco and Dutch state-owned Abelio handed themselves a £3 million dividend in March last year, but they have told “heroic” key workers who ran services throughout the pandemic that they must accept a two-year pay freeze.

While shareholders kept their snouts in the trough, the network’s cleaners, subcontracted to Mitie, are denied the real living wage and sick pay beyond the statutory minimum, the union said.

The Merseyrail concession has proved highly lucrative for shareholders, who have trousered £156 million since 2004.

But just a quarter of last year’s £3m dividends could fund an inflation-matching 1.5 per cent pay increase for all Merseyrail staff and put station cleaners on the real living wage with a 1.5 per cent pay rise on top, RMT said.

General secretary Mick Cash said: “Once again, we see the rampant pandemic profiteering in the rail industry.

“The Merseyrail contract was a disgrace before the pandemic and it’s even more of a disgrace now.

“Year after year, Serco and Abellio have taken multimillion-pound payouts and last year they did it again, even as the Prime Minister was addressing the nation and preparing them for tragic losses from the virus.

“This money should be paid back and put into funding a proper pay rise for all its staff and remedying the gross injustices affecting the cleaners who have risked their lives during this pandemic.”

Merseyrail’s franchisees are guaranteed 66 per cent of fare-box revenue.

Despite a huge fall in passenger numbers during the pandemic, the company has told RMT regional organiser John Tilley that it is back on track to make a £4.2 million profit this year.

Mr Tilley told the Morning Star: “It is galling to have sat opposite the Merseyrail top brass listening to them cry poverty as their excuse for pay freezes and job losses in recent weeks, then to have it revealed that their shareholders have been paid a £3m bonus.

“Quite frankly, they should hand the keys in immediately and put an end to this profiteering, privatised scandal.”

Merseyrail declined to comment.

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