Outsourced tube cleaners demonstrated outside City Hall on Thursday to demand better working conditions.
The Rail and Maritime and Transport (RMT) trade union members are part of the ‘fighting for a fair deal’ campaign.
London Underground has recently consolidated all cleaning contracts and sold them to multinational firm ABM.
The cleaners are demanding £10 an hour, sick pay, holiday pay, travel passes and an end to outsourcing.
Cleaners are encouraged to register as ‘self employed’. That means ABM doesn’t have the same responsibilities as if it employed them directly.
This includes sick pay. Richard is a cleaner on the London Underground. He said “I’ve had to take four days off because I caught the flu—the tube is a breeding place for viruses and bugs. Cleaners are treated like slaves, we need to be brought back in house.”
And workers are expected to pay for travel between stations during a shift out of their own pocket.
Tube cleaner Victoria spoke to Socialist Worker about how hard the work is. “We have to deal with drunk customers all the time—I was assaulted by a customer because he wasn’t happy with the service,” she said.
Cleaners are also having more responsibilities heaped on them. Tube cleaner Alexandra said, “We sit in the bin rooms in our breaks. And the work is increasing too, I used to clean two stations a shift, now I clean four. And if there’s too much work, I have to finish it during my lunch break.”
But management make workplace organisation difficult. Victoria said, “People are scared to strike. Management bully us and we’re agency workers so can get sacked for any reason.”
In October last year mayor Sadiq Khan promised £10 an hour minimum wage after he “discovered” subcontractors were paying less than the London Living Wage.
Activists are calling on Khan to honour his promise and enforce £10 an hour.
RMT rep at London Transport Andy Littlechild said, “We thought it would be made better by Sadiq Khan but it’s no different to Boris Johnson—more of the same. We’re not here to beg, we’re here to demand that Khan cleans up his act, and we’ll be back here until he does.